Samaritans' plan to reduce suicide rate in Wales

Image caption, Simon Hatch says Samaritans' services will be needed more than ever

The Samaritans are launching a five-year plan to cut suicides amid concern over a rise in unemployment.

The charity says it fears that job cuts as a result of the spending review, could increase the number of deaths by suicide.

Research suggests unemployed people are twice as likely to take their own life than people with jobs.

The group also pointed to figures suggesting that 40,000 people could lose their jobs across Wales by 2015.

Simon Hatch, the Samaritans director for Wales, was appointed to his Welsh Assembly Government-funded post in September 2009 to help reduce the number of suicides and raise awareness of the charity's work.

He said the plan had been formulated to address a number of issues.

"We think there are particular issues in Wales around resilience to cuts which mean that our services are likely to be needed more than ever over the next few years," he said.

"It wasn't specifically timed for after the UK government's spending review but it is in the context of all of that."

Mr Hatch said that the suicide rate in Wales was worse than that in England but better than in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

"Though the rate in Wales has been dropping over recent years, which is welcome, there are still around 300 people a year who die by suicide," he added.

"It's about encouraging specific groups, mostly men, to think about us for the first time, and to speak about their problems.

"Two-thirds of all suicides in Wales are men - approximately 220 in total - and around half to two-thirds of those are aged between 25 and 50."

Rural isolation

The five-year strategy will boost awareness of its 24-hour service in areas of social or economic deprivation.

It is also aimed at reaching people in rural isolation, and the charity hopes to develop its services in the Welsh language.

Health Minister Edwina Hart, who will launch the scheme later at the Pierhead building in Cardiff Bay, said it would complement the assembly government's own action plan.

The lunchtime event will be hosted by Vale of Clwyd AM Ann Jones, with Samaritans' chief executive Catherine Johnstone, chair Sophie Andrews and volunteers in attendance.

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