Support in Wales for people bereaved by suicide “not good enough”
Assembly Members have called on the Welsh Government to urgently ensure there is support for those bereaved by suicide available across Wales.
A motion passed on Wednesday proposes that the National Assembly for Wales:
1. Recognises that losing someone to suicide is a uniquely devastating loss for families, friends and whole communities.
2. Notes the limited support available in Wales to support those bereaved by suicide.
3. Notes that losing someone to suicide is a major risk factor for dying by suicide and that support for those bereaved is a vital part of suicide prevention.
4. Calls on the Welsh Government to urgently ensure there is support for those bereaved by suicide available across Wales as part of a comprehensive postvention pathway for Wales. In doing so, the Welsh Government must ensure that improvements to services and the new pathway are co-produced by those with lived experience of suicide bereavement.
A uniquely devastating loss
Lynne Neagle AM (Lab, Torfaen) described losing someone to suicide as uniquely devastating, often leaving people in a “deeply dark place”. While this in no way minimised the impact of other types of bereavement, suicide comes with stronger feelings of guilt, isolation and sometimes stigma.
There was no need for constant reviews to tell us that bereavement services are woefully inadequate. Wales is behind other parts of the UK on this; new guidance in England has stated a single suicide in a school population should be treated as a potential cluster requiring urgent intervention.
David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central) said that often the first time the bereaved talked to someone outside their family about suicide is when they would come to elected representatives about the difficulties they were having accessing support.
Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) added that Cruse Bereavement Care has called for a minister with named responsibility for bereavement services.
Jack Sargeant AM (Lab, Alyn & Deeside) described what it’s like for someone going through a suicide bereavement, including post-traumatic stress – loss of sleep, nightmares, flashbacks – and a realisation that your life will never quite be the same again.
He called for more empathetic reporting on suicide:
“Deputy Llywydd, awareness of behaviour can impact on those that have lost someone has to improve.
The reporting of suicide is a particular example and those that seek to inform this type of reporting should answer this very simple question: what effect will my actions have on the bereaved?”
– Jack Sargeant AM
Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central) said that while we’ve come a long way in terms of the stigma around suicide – when her grandfather took his own life in 1928, churches would refuse to bury suicide victims – more needed to be done in terms of prevention, particularly properly identifying self-harming behaviour amongst young people such as alcohol and substance abuse.
“There were 360 deaths by suicide a couple of years ago in Wales; that’s one a day.
If anything else was causing one death a day in Wales, people would be out there protesting and stuff, we’d have urgent questions here every other week saying, ‘What’s happening?’ I hear the
Minister saying there is a lot of stuff happening, and I commend the approach of the Government, but we need so much more because there is an opportunity.”
– Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West)
Understanding circumstances key to prevention
Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), told AMs that while nobody can easily predict how people may react to losing someone to suicide, understanding the complex risk factors and circumstances was key to prevention. Research in this area was improving.
More money for mental health has been promised in the draft budget, while both suicide prevention and self-harm are priorities over the next three years in the new mental health strategy due to be published shortly.
“As an interim measure, I’ve agreed additional in-year funding to strengthen existing suicide bereavement support provided by the third sector.
Five organisations have been supported. In addition, Welsh Government regional funding is being used to create a new bereavement support service for north Wales.
I’ll make a written statement before the half-term recess to outline our longer-term plans.”
– Health Minister, Vaughan Gething
Somewhat surprisingly there was a vote – probably because the motion was too strongly-worded for the Welsh Government to support outright.
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