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UK’s first Suicide Prevention Minister: how we got here

This week’s appointment of a Minister For Suicide Prevention marks a monumental win for the CALM movement – but it’s an important move for everyone in the UK.

Around 6,000 lives are lost to suicide in the UK every year. 76% of those are male, which makes suicide the biggest killer of men under 45. Suicide has a huge emotional impact – on families, communities and on society as a whole. Government figures estimate the cost of each suicide at £1.67 million, but we know the real cost is the devastation each and every suicide leaves behind.

Along with a free helpline and webchat for men in crisis, CALM has been banging the drum about the impact of suicide for over a decade. We work daily with bereaved people who are passionate about saving lives, and challenge a culture that can prevent men seeking help.

In the last few years especially, we’ve made huge progress in getting the issue of suicide on the public agenda, but this week’s news is the one of the most important steps in CALM history. Together we made real change, here’s how:

1. #Project84: our biggest ever campaign

#Project84, launched in March, was our biggest campaign ever. With the help of families bereaved by suicide, sculptor Mark Jenkins, ITV’s This Morning and Harry’s, we galvanised public awareness that 84 men a week lose their lives to suicide in the UK.

2. People power: a petition for change

As part of #Project84, we worked with Matthew Smith, who tragically lost his brother Dan to suicide, to launch a petition on calling on government to deliver ministerial responsibility for suicide prevention and bereavement support.

3. The Government listens – CALM works with Number 10.

The petition took off and garnered almost 400,000 signatures. The government took heed, and invited CALM to Number 10 to work through opportunities and think about what the role of a Minister for Suicide Prevention might look like.

4. Win! Government answers CALM’s call.

On #WorldMentalHealthDay we made real, monumental change. The Government answered CALM’s call by appointing the UK’s first ever Minister for Suicide Prevention,

5. An emotional day

Here is Matthew talking about the news this week ? (SPOILER: He’s chuffed.)

6. A proud movement

This is a huge step forward. To every single runner, campaigner, supporter, fundraiser, volunteer, retweeter, petition-signer and general CALM rabble-raiser who made it possible: from all of us here, THANK YOU. ?

So what’s next? In a nutshell, we’ll work with this new position to:

1. Destigmatise the issue of suicide and its impact.

2. Bring people together to tackle this societal issue as a national priority.

3. Accelerate and elevate suicide prevention work which saves and changes lives.

This is just the beginning.

Having a Minister for Suicide Prevention will help us work more effectively: by implementing quality standards for suicide prevention across the UK, building better understanding through data, and shining a light on the most impactful efforts to reduce suicide rates.

There is no quick-fix solution to the problem of suicide and the immense pain of bereavement, but this is a very important step forward. We won’t be slowing down the pressure to deliver anytime soon. Onwards!

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Need support?

Have you been affected by suicide? The Support After Suicide Partnership is a hub for anyone bereaved or affected by suicide where you can find emotional and practical support.

If you or someone you know is struggling, CALM’s helpline and webchat are open daily 5pm-midnight. Get access here.

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