Page last updated at 17:49 GMT, Monday, 2 November 2009

New anti-suicide plan is unveiled

Man holding head in hands
The strategy aims to reduce the 300 suicides in Wales each year

Nearly 2,000 people have been trained to identify and help those in mental distress as part of a plan to reduce suicides in Wales, it has emerged.

Teachers, police and health staff are among those involved in the assembly government's Talk to Me programme.

New proposals include a "bite-sized course" for busy professionals on recognising signs of mental distress.

The updated plan says it seeks to raise awareness and encourage people to talk more about their problems.

About 300 people commit suicide in Wales each year, a higher rate than England but lower than in Scotland.

About three-quarters of people who take their lives have not had contact with mental health services in the months leading up to their death.

Plans for an all-Wales suicide strategy were accelerated after a series of deaths among young people in the Bridgend area.

The assembly government said responses to the consultation "indicated that many professionals felt they had some of the necessary skills and would find it difficult to take too much time out of their daily schedules to complete a longer course".

The programme, Connecting with People, has been developed "to reduce the stigma associated with self-harm, and increase understanding of self harm and suicidal behaviour".

'Provide help'

Tony Jewell, Wales' chief medical officer, said it aimed to promote "improved mental health and well being by encouraging people to talk more about their personal difficulties and get help quickly when they need it".

Dr Jewell said: "Talking about these issues does not create or increase risk, it reduces it. If people understand the issues they will be better placed to provide help or know where to find support.

"Calls to the 24-hour helpline have increased since last year, which is a promising sign that people are more aware of the service and more prepared to talk about their problems and concerns."

It has been given new development and support funding of £85,000.

The assembly government has also provided more than £400,000 a year for the 24-hour helpline and £100,000 a year for a Samaritans co-ordinator.

The funding for training, some £1.7m, comes from the assembly government and lottery funding.

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