5. Statement by the Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Well-being: The Mental Health and Well-being and Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention Strategies

– in the Senedd at 4:16 pm on 20 February 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 4:16, 20 February 2024

(Translated)

Item 5 is a statement by the Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Well-being: the mental health and well-being and suicide and self-harm prevention strategies. And I call on the Deputy Minister, Lynne Neagle.

Photo of Lynne Neagle Lynne Neagle Labour 4:17, 20 February 2024

Thank you, Deputy Llywydd. Today I am delighted to launch the mental health and well-being strategy, and our new suicide and self-harm prevention strategy for consultation. The strategies aim to build upon 'Together for Mental Health' and 'Talk to me 2'. The previous strategies have been a catalyst for a cross-Government and multi-agency approach to mental health and suicide and self-harm prevention. The consultation documents published today set out our commitment to develop this further, with partners, as part of a whole-system approach to protect, improve and provide support for mental health, and to reduce suicide and self-harm in Wales.

The strategies are the result of significant engagement. Listening to people affected by the issues in each strategy has been fundamental. The pre-consultation survey alone included over 250 responses. We have worked with a series of reference groups including our national mental health partnership board, the Wales Alliance for Mental Health, our minority ethnic mental health task and finish group, our national service user and carer forum and our suicide and self-harm prevention drafting group. We have also worked with the youth stakeholder group and the Welsh Youth Parliament, and the 'Young Minds Matter' report has helped shape the strategies. I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this process so far. This has been a genuine partnership and co-production approach.

Importantly, the consultation documents have a clear focus on tackling inequalities in access and outcomes. The Senedd Cymru Health and Social Care Committee inquiry, 'Connecting the dots: tackling mental health inequalities in Wales' covered this issue in depth, highlighting those in the population that have the greatest risk of mental health inequality and how different groups and communities experience this inequality, and it made a number of recommendations that have informed the development of the strategies. 

Both strategies recognise the critical role of other ministerial portfolios to tackle the wider determinants of mental health and to prevent suicide and self-harm. My officials have worked with officials across Government to ensure key areas of work are reflected in the new strategies.

The mental health and well-being strategy is a joint health and social care strategy to reflect the responsibilities of both to provide mental health support. I have also convened a new joint ministerial board to oversee the strategies, and the Deputy Minister for Social Services has agreed to be vice-chair. That board will meet for the first time this week.

Photo of Lynne Neagle Lynne Neagle Labour 4:20, 20 February 2024

A key theme in our engagement so far is not to medicalise mental health. Mental health has become a term that is used to describe a wide range of circumstances. We want to see a shift in how we talk about and support mental health issues to better reflect the needs of individuals. The majority of people who we might define as having a mental health issue do need support, but don’t need specialised mental health services. For those that need specialised mental health services, we have also been clear about how we intend to strengthen these further. The strategies are a first step to work with stakeholders to reset the language around mental health and well-being.

The two strategies are separate but interconnected. This approach recognises that suicide and self-harm are not diagnosable mental health conditions and that many people who die by suicide are not known to mental health services. There is also a prevailing misconception that people who die by suicide have a mental illness, and it is vital that we challenge this perception to remove the stigma and support people who need it.

Our draft strategies have each been developed around two high-level visions. The mental health and well-being strategy aims for people in Wales to live in communities that promote, support and empower them to improve their mental health and well-being, and be free from stigma and discrimination. We will take a rights-based approach to ensuring that everyone has the best mental health possible.

There will be a connected system of support across health, social care, third sector and wider, where people can access the right service at the right time and in the right place. Care and support will be person centred, compassionate and recovery focused, with an emphasis on improving quality, safety and access. Care and support will be delivered by a workforce that feels supported and has the capacity, competence and confidence to meet people’s needs.

Our suicide and self-harm prevention strategy aims for people in Wales to live in communities that are free from the fear and stigma associated with suicide and self-harm, and are empowered and supported to both seek and offer help when it is needed. 

All available modelling suggests mental health demands will continue to increase. Without continued cross-Government and multi-agency support, as set out in these strategies, the NHS is likely to become overwhelmed. We have invested to ensure there is new and dedicated support for mental health services, and for suicide and self-harm prevention, in the NHS executive. This resource will be critical to provide the central drive and support to improve the quality, safety and accessibility of mental health services. This will ensure that we continue to develop services, building on recent transformation of services through the implementation of '111 press 2' for mental health.

Of course, we recognise the unprecedented financial pressures that we are facing, and the strategies aim to provide direction to services and partners to ensure value-based targeting of resources, rather than set out a list of new funding commitments. On the basis that we expect significant engagement from similar groups of stakeholders, we are proposing a 16-week consultation period. This provides another opportunity to further explore the issues people are facing in Wales, which are leading to poor mental health and well-being, self-harm and, in the most tragic cases, suicide. This will help us strengthen our cross-Government response to the issues people are experiencing to promote good mental health and well-being and ensure that timely support is available for people.

We have done our utmost to ensure this consultation is as accessible as possible. The consultation is available in full on our website alongside easy-read versions, and we have developed specific resources to support children and young people. We have also created engagement packs to support those working with vulnerable groups or people with lived experience to help them to respond to the consultation. We will all have an interest in this area and I encourage people to respond to the consultation. Diolch.

Photo of James Evans James Evans Conservative 4:25, 20 February 2024

I'd like to thank the Deputy Minister for your statement today and the pre-advanced copy of what you just said.

Reducing the rates of suicide and self-harm in our society is vital. Suicide and self-harm, especially suicide, leaves far too many families and people and loved ones across Wales with a hole that can never be filled. And also, reducing self-harm is very important because we don't want to see the long-term lasting effects of that on people, and also, people lose their lives when they self-harm, as well, and that's something we need to get on top of.

It's good to hear, Deputy Minister, the organisations that you've worked with, especially the Youth Parliament. I think it's very, very important that we get the views of young people when we create these strategies, because a lot of young people do suffer with mental health conditions, so it's vitally important that we get their buy-in and input into these strategies. In the statement, you talked about co-design and cross-governmental working, and I know that that's a priority for you. These strategies, right across Government, are everybody's business, but I'm interested in how these structures are going to work. When we get feedback and input back from the strategies, how are they going to be monitored and what mechanisms are you putting in place so that the Senedd can actually be kept updated, through the committee structure and the Chamber, to make sure that these strategies are actually delivering on what they're supposed to do?

One of the groups that really does worry me, and it's mentioned, is young men and middle-aged men. We know that they're more likely to take their own lives and I'd be interested to know what work you're doing around that specific group to get their feedback into these consultations. Because it's very difficult for men to come forward to talk about their mental health experiences, so I think it'd be interesting and a lot of people would like to know what the Government is doing around that. 

For a lot of these strategies to work, it is going to need the buy-in and collective responsibility of health boards as well. So, one thing I'd like to know from you, Deputy Minister, is what conversations you've had with our health boards and the boards around these strategies and what their response has been and how they're going to feed into this consultation as well. Because as you mentioned around financial pressures, everybody is under financial pressure at the moment, so it'd be interesting to see how they can actually make these work in practice.

The higher level objective No. 4 was to increase skills, awareness and knowledge of suicide and self-harm. It states in there that it's going to be done through training and awareness, but we all know, anecdotally and from other areas, that when doctors and nurses are going through training in general practice, actually, the mental health element is quite a small part of their training. So, it'd be interesting to know what conversations you've had with the education Minister and the overall health Minister around this and how we can embed mental health more into our training so that people are more aware of it.

Higher level objective 6 talks about the media and I do totally agree with you about the language that we use when we talk about suicide and self-harm; it has to be done in an appropriate way. As we're all aware, media is still a reserved matter for the UK Government, so you probably had to have cross-governmental talks around how the media is managed and how those discussions are had. So, it'd be interesting to know what discussions you've had with UK Government, but also with the media outlets here in Wales, about how they discuss mental health, how they talk about suicide and how they talk about self-harm.

You did talk, at the start of your statement, about the Health and Social Care Committee and about the 'Connecting the dots: tackling mental health inequalities in Wales' report. So, I'd like to understand from you how that fed into this consultation and what recommendations they put forward that you're going to be driving forward as part of these strategies to make sure that those reports that we get from committees don't sit on a shelf. Some of the recommendations that they actually bring forward can really improve the lives of people with lived experience. So, I think that'd be very important as well.

Finally, Minister, as this consultation has gone out, you outlined that you will be engaging with as many groups as possible, but one thing I'd really like to know is about those people with lived experience, because I always think, in these consultation responses, we always get replies from the usual suspects who reply back to everything with the usual responses to almost every consultation that goes out; we've all seen them through health—. We greatly appreciate them, but we normally get the same responses back. But I personally think that those lived experience responses are the ones—. Even going through my own process now, my own Bill, which you're aware of, those people who respond to you really cut a deep chord and actually, really, what you want to listen to and understand and how you can develop those into strategies to make sure that those people live healthier and fulfilled lives—. So, I'm looking forward to the outcome of this consultation, as it runs in parallel with my own Bill's consultation—I'll drop that in, but I'm probably not supposed to, under spokesperson's questions, Deputy Llywydd, but I'll do it anyway. But I'd just like to thank the Minister for your statement and I look forward to this consultation as it goes forward, and how we can improve the lives of those affected by mental health here in Wales.

Photo of Lynne Neagle Lynne Neagle Labour 4:30, 20 February 2024

Thank you very much, James, for that very positive response to the statement, and can I just take this opportunity, Dirprwy Lywydd, to just place on record my thanks to Welsh Government officials for all their work on these two strategies? It's not an easy task to deliver two strategies in such a co-productive way, while doing all the things that they have to do on a daily basis, and I am really, really pleased and appreciative of the work that they've done.

James, you raised many points there, and thank you for starting with the suicide prevention strategy. I'm really keen that that is as much of a focus as our mental health and well-being strategy. They're separate, but interconnected. So, that's really important. We are committed to reducing the number of people who die by suicide. As far as I'm concerned, one person dying by suicide is one too many. The rates have been largely stable over the last few years, but we want to drive those rates down much further, and that's what this new strategy is about.

You referenced self-harm, and that's why we've focused on self-harm in the strategy, because we know that people who self-harm have got a much higher risk of going on and completing suicide. So, they are a group of people that we really need to focus on. But we've taken a very granular approach to high-risk groups in the strategy, so we've identified which groups are more likely to self-harm. We want to build the evidence base on self-harm, and that's an approach that we've also taken to men as well. We're used to saying that there is a problem with male suicide, but we know that it is a certain group of men, middle-aged men, that are much likely more likely to die by suicide. So, that's reflected in the strategy, and I can confirm that there is already a lot of work going on. We've had workshops with men to listen to them about the issues that they're facing so that we can really co-produce that response with men.

You highlighted the importance of this being a cross-Government strategy, which it absolutely is, and I'm very grateful for the buy-in from all my Cabinet colleagues. But you're absolutely right, once we have the completed strategies, we need to monitor and drive that implementation. That's why, with my colleague Julie Morgan, we've established a new delivery and assurance board to drive that, as two Ministers representing health and social care, to make sure that we've got that high-level Welsh Government mechanism to drive delivery. But as well as that, we also have cross-Government working with Cabinet colleagues. We've got two cross-Government officials groups, one looking at mental health and well-being, and the other one looking at suicide prevention. So, that work is really embedded throughout the Government, and it is absolutely the case that we will be providing—. I committed that we would provide reports on progress. The plan is that, when we have completed the consultation, we will publish the final strategies, with delivery plans underpinning them, and then we will also identify what those reporting arrangements will be.

Thank you for your comments about the health boards. Obviously, getting their buy-in is crucial, especially in the current climate. The NHS executive is going to be running specific workshops with the NHS to get their views on the strategies, so we'll be able to take their feedback specifically on that and to identify what more we can do in that space.

You mentioned, in terms of the suicide prevention strategy, high-level objective 4, which is the one about training. Now, I think suicide prevention is everybody's business. I've said it many times. I want to see us all upskilled in having those life-saving conversations with people. So, our approach to training is that kind of approach, really. We've got a new website with all sorts of training opportunities, but we also, as you say, need to embed that in the NHS, and we’ve got our new strategic mental health workforce plan that will help us with that, and obviously I have regular discussions with the health Minister on that.

In terms of high-level objective 6, which is on the media, we need to keep focusing on the media. I think there have been improvements; most media outlets are aware of the excellent Samaritans guidance on reporting suicide, but they don’t all follow it as much as they could do, and we’re going to continue that dialogue with the media in Wales and with the UK Government as well. But what I would say is it’s not just about the media; it’s about the language that we all use when we talk about suicide, and I would refer Members again to the Samaritans guidance that they issued at World Suicide Prevention Day in the autumn, which encourages us all to use responsible language when we talk about suicide, because vulnerable people could be listening to us and it could influence their behaviour.

Just in terms of the committee report ‘Connecting the dots’, obviously that was a really key, major piece of work; it majored significantly on health inequalities and the social determinants of mental health, and I think, if you look at the strategy, you can see that we have looked at that in great detail. We’ve taken the Marmot principles as the way to frame the actions that we’re taking on that. The other kinds of areas that we’ve picked up from their report are the need for there to be a bigger focus on serious mental illness, because that has tended to be an area that perhaps there hasn’t been the focus on; children and young people—a key priority area for us. But I hope that the committee, when looking at the consultation document, will see that the work that they did has informed our consultations.

Photo of Mabon ap Gwynfor Mabon ap Gwynfor Plaid Cymru 4:37, 20 February 2024

Thank you for the statement from the Deputy Minister. I’m liking a lot of what I’m hearing. The landscape of mental health care has evolved significantly since the publication of the original ‘Together for Mental Health‘ strategy back in 2012. In recent years, we’ve witnessed a long-overdue shift in societal attitudes towards mental health. Harmful social stigmas are being increasingly dismantled, and public discourse on mental health is noticeably more receptive to the sensitivities involved. But much work remains to be done. Last year, Plaid Cymru called on the Government to include a specific perinatal focus in the upcoming strategy and I’d like to reiterate this call today. As many as one in four women experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the first year after the birth of their baby. This equates to around 9,000 new mothers in Wales each year. Around one in 10 partners also experience a mental health problem during this period and this ratio is significantly higher for partners of women who have mental health issues themselves.

The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are instrumental in shaping their lifelong well-being. A failure to identify and respond to perinatal mental health issues as soon as they manifest perpetuates and entrenches mental health issues, as well as related physical issues, throughout later life for parents and children alike. If we are to develop a truly holistic and preventative mental health strategy therefore, it must be effective at the very start of life. In practical terms, this means ensuring that all seven perinatal mental health services in Wales fully meet national type 1 College Centre for Quality Improvement standards as well as substantially upscaling training and development pathways on infant mental health for healthcare professionals.

This leads me on to my next point, which is the need to address the particular barriers being faced by children and young people when it comes to accessing mental health support. Young people experienced the largest average deterioration in their mental well-being as a result of the pandemic. And yet waiting times for local primary mental health support services are disproportionately longer for Welsh children compared to adults. I’d be very grateful, therefore, if the Deputy Minister could explain how this new strategy can get the Government back on track to meet its target of providing at least 80 per cent of children and young people with mental health referrals within 28 days, which has not been met for some time. This of course relates to a wider issue of inequalities in the provision of mental health services, whereby gender, age, ethnicity, household income and geographic location all too often determine the quality of care. For instance, women in Wales exhibited worse levels of mental health after the onset of the pandemic, resulting in a widening of the gap in reported well-being between men and women. On this basis, I'm concerned at the implications of the planned reprioritisation of £15 million from the mental health budget, which the Government has readily acknowledged will result in initiatives to combat social inequalities being delivered more gradually. Could the Deputy Minister therefore provide further details on what this will mean for timescales and relevant targets?

Finally, I welcome the fact that the Government intends to continue with a separate strategy for the suicide and self-harm prevention agenda, and I fully agree with the rationale for doing so. It is a tragedy and a damning indictment of how our society is failing the most vulnerable that suicide is the main cause of death for men under the age of 50—my own family and too many others here today continue to grieve and suffer because of this—while, here in Wales, suicide rates for both men and women remain high and well above the average for England and Wales.

One of the key recommendations of the ORS report on developing the successor strategies to 'Together for Mental Health' and 'Talk to Me 2' was the need to improve means of collecting data to evidence success or otherwise, but a recurring problem in the context of suicide prevention is the fact that median registration delay for coroner reports on suicides is significantly longer in Wales compared to England, which inevitably compromises the value of published statistics. So, could the Deputy Minister therefore confirm that this particular issue will be considered as part of the Government's work? Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Photo of Lynne Neagle Lynne Neagle Labour 4:41, 20 February 2024

Thank you very much, Mabon, for your comments and your positive response to the statement, highlighting very important issues. And I completely agree with you that, on things like stigma, we haven't cracked it yet, we've got more work that we need to do, and that's why stigma is such a key focus in the new strategy.

You talked about perinatal mental health and infant mental health, both of which are incredibly important to me. I'm passionate about attachment principles. I've said many times that, if there's a silver bullet in mental health, I think it's the early years. That first 1,000 days is that really fantastic opportunity to give a child that start for the rest of their life, informing those secure relationships. Perinatal mental health will continue to be a priority, but we've particularly highlighted in the strategy that we want to develop lower level support. Because we've made good progress, we've got perinatal mental health teams in every part of Wales, we've got the mother and baby unit in Tonna Hospital, we've got the one coming on-stream in north Wales, but what I feel we are needing to do more on is that lower level support: women who don't meet the clinical threshold, and fathers as well. I went to meet with a group in James Evans's constituency, Mums Matter, where the third sector were delivering a programme, just bringing mothers together, really, to talk about the problems a lot of us have when we first become mothers, and it was phenomenal. It wasn't clinical. And I had women there saying to me, 'This programme has saved my life.' And I want to see more of that kind of initiative for everyone in Wales.

Infant mental health is specifically committed to in the strategy. We've only got two teams at the moment in Wales delivering infant mental health support, slightly different models in both, but I'm really keen that we have provision throughout Wales to underpin that support for the first 1,000 days.

You raised the issues around children and young people, and there's nothing closer to my heart than children and young people's services. I think it is important to recognise that a key shift we're trying to make in this strategy is one that we've made to some extent already for children and young people, who've told us repeatedly, 'Don't medicalise our mental health. Don't medicalise growing up.' Lots of young people can get support without accessing specialist services. That's why we've got a whole-school approach, we've got our NEST/NYTH system, and they're committed to in the strategy. We do need to make more progress on the measure for children and young people. We've invested in dedicated resource in the NHS executive's mental health programme—£2.2 million—and they are working with health boards to drive those improvements. All health boards have trajectories to recover their performance. And we've already seen good progress in specialist CAMHS, and we need to see that now with the measure.

You referred to the funding, Mabon, and I've been very open with the Senedd in committees that we weren't able to take that extra step of having the additional £15 million. We have invested £75 million extra, made available this year, and £50 million last year, but because of the really difficult financial situation we couldn't go that extra step with the £15 million. But that is more than compensated for by the fact that we have prioritised the mental health ring fence that goes out to health boards. That's seen an increase of £25 million, and it was a balancing thing, really. I felt it was really important to protect those front-line services, that anything that undermined the ring fence would do more damage to efforts to deliver parity between mental and physical health in the long term. And we have struggled to spend some of the extra investment that we've put into mental health because of workforce challenges. So, we're able to manage that reduction in the central MEG, I think, through underspends and just profiling the spend slightly differently, so that priority is still there for investing in mental health.

Thank you for your comments on suicide and self-harm and for highlighting the work done by ORS. I'm very happy to commit to looking at the issue with the coroners. I think there is much more work we can do with coroners in general, because I think it can be a really traumatising experience for families, and the last thing we want is for families to be retraumatised. But we have got over that hurdle of the delays in Wales, because we have real-time suicide surveillance across Wales now—that's not something they've got in England—and that published its first report in January this year. That enables us to respond really, really quickly. We can identify any clusters and respond to any issues in localities, so I'm really pleased that we've got that in place, because we've got that real-time information that doesn't rely on us waiting for the outcome of a coroner's court. Thank you.

Photo of Jack Sargeant Jack Sargeant Labour 4:48, 20 February 2024

Minister, can I thank you for bringing today's statement forward on the two strategies and once again demonstrating your commitment to improving mental health and to suicide prevention? Presiding Officer, I spoke very recently about my own loss through suicide, particularly my dad and my best friend of 20 years, Jamie Wynne. I shared that experience and the experience of my own personal battles with mental health because I want to help others. I genuinely want to help others. I don't want another family to go through what mine and Jamie's had to.

But I'm also committed to supporting others who want to help—people like Connah's Quay Town Football Club, Jamie's grass-roots football club, who are seeking to do just that, just to help others. They've taken a number of steps, Minister, to encourage players and fans who are struggling with their own personal mental health to seek support from either the well-being champions within the club, or through recognised charities and mental health organisations that they've signposted. Do you agree with me that the work of Connah's Quay Town FC should be applauded and shared as best practice across Wales? And perhaps as part of the consultation going forward, would you instruct officials to meet with the club to discuss further how this could be replicated across Wales? Diolch.

Photo of Lynne Neagle Lynne Neagle Labour 4:49, 20 February 2024

Thank you very much, Jack. Can I pay tribute to the work you've been doing? I recognise that it's really hard to talk about the experiences that you've been through, but it will make a huge difference to people hearing you, and we've talked a lot about stigma, and it is breaking down the stigma, so I do really thank you for the work that you're doing. I'm very happy to applaud Connah's Quay Town Football Club. I think it is brilliant that they're doing this and, actually, I think there's huge potential with football clubs more generally—Cardiff City Foundation are also doing good work, the Welsh Football Association are—because what football clubs give us is a sense of belonging, and we know that belonging is protective for mental health, and not belonging is the contrary. So, there's enormous potential there, and it also really chimes with what we're trying to do in the strategy, which says that not everybody needs specialist medical support: it is about that company, not being isolated, that sense of belonging. So, thank you for highlighting that, and I'm very happy to meet with the club myself to listen to work that they've been doing and to see what lessons we can learn for elsewhere in Wales.

Photo of Jayne Bryant Jayne Bryant Labour 4:51, 20 February 2024

I'd like to thank the Deputy Minister for her statement today and put on record my thanks for the tireless work that she does in this area. I know it's something that is a personal commitment on this, and I'd like to recognise the work that she has done and continues to do in this area. There's so much to welcome in this today, in the statement, and I was particularly happy to hear the Deputy Minister today say that good mental health is not just a health and social care issue, and as chair of the Senedd's cross-party group on suicide prevention, something I followed the Deputy Minister in, I'm acutely aware of the need for society and Government to work together to continue to improve services and attitudes to mental health and well-being.

The draft strategies launched today are a crucial opportunity to raise awareness of the social determinants of poor mental health and the role of health inequalities. Recently released data evidence that poverty and inequality remain key risk factors, and addressing those social, economic and environmental inequalities requires cross-sector collaboration. An excellent example is the Samaritans UK rail partnership, soon to be extended to the south Wales core Valleys lines. Much of the impact of this initiative is made by rail employees trained and empowered to act, showing what is possible through collaboration across sectors.

And just finally, Deputy Llywydd, I know that schools across Wales have pioneered new approaches to promoting good mental health and well-being in young people, and prevention and early intervention are key to continuing the work of ensuring that our new curriculum fulfils legislative duties to well-being and mental health. Diolch.

Photo of Lynne Neagle Lynne Neagle Labour 4:52, 20 February 2024

Thank you very much, Jayne, for your kind words and for your welcome for the two strategies today, and thank you for the work that you do with the suicide prevention cross-party group. It's incredibly important. And as you've highlighted, poverty and inequality are key drivers of not just suicide, but poor mental health, so that's why we've got a really strong focus. There's a whole chapter dedicated. One of the vision statements is on cross-Government working, and I would encourage Members to have a look at it because, actually, when you see it all written down, it's really quite impressive how much cross-Government working there is with all Ministers, not just my colleague Julie Morgan, but Vaughan Gething, the transport Minister, and it is absolutely vital that we do that work.

And thank you for highlighting the Samaritans' rail initiative, which I think is excellent. We know that the railways—. A priority in our strategy is to reduce access to means and locations, so we need to tackle the things that go on in railway, so that's really very welcome, and I'm delighted to hear that it's going to be coming to south Wales.

And thank you for highlighting the schools work. It's absolutely critical, and the work that we're doing with children and young people has really informed the work that we're doing with adults. They said to us, 'Don't medicalise growing up', and that's why we want that universal support in schools, underpinned by our curriculum, to try and stop those problems escalating. Thank you.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Labour

Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd, and I genuinely welcome both of the strategies—the mental health and well-being, and the suicide and self-harm prevention strategies—and the consultations, and join the Minister in urging people to put their thoughts into this on how we take this forward.

When I was a very young man, a long time ago, we were a very tight group of five of us that always went everywhere together. We were idiots. We were never bad, but we were idiots, and then we went our own way to college and to jobs and so on, and one of us, one of our tight little group took his own life, out of the blue—the most vivacious, the most outgoing, the most extroverted, the most talented of all of us, and I often stop and think, 'What if?' And that's why what really leaps out at me in the statement today is where you say,

'This approach recognises that suicide and self-harm are not diagnosable mental health conditions and many people who die by suicide are not known to mental health services. There is also a prevailing misconception that people who die by suicide have a mental health illness, and it is vital that we challenge this perception to remove the stigma and support people who need it.'

I so much agree. And can I, along with Jack, who mentioned some of the excellent work that's going on in groups out there, if you or your officials want at any time to come and visit the 14 volunteers in the Ogmore Valley Suicide Awareness CIC, who work with local groups and organisations—football clubs, rugby clubs, various local groups—to raise awareness of the support that's out there for people who can really help them, and have those conversations as well. They organise coffee mornings and so on. So, Minister, if you ever want to come and chat to somebody down our way, I'm sure they'd really welcome it.

Photo of Lynne Neagle Lynne Neagle Labour 4:56, 20 February 2024

Thank you very much, Huw, for your welcome. I'm really sorry to hear about your friend. That's something that affects people for the rest of their lives, and it's that 'what if?', isn't it, really, and it's important that we all remember that, as well as suicide not being a mental health issue—although it can be a mental health issue, but it's not necessarily a mental health issue—we also have to remember that suicide is not inevitable, and there are opportunities for prevention, and that's what this new strategy is about, seeking out those opportunities for prevention and really going at every single one of those.

Thank you for highlighting the group in your constituency, the suicide awareness CIC. I didn't know about that, and I'd be very happy to meet with them. Just to say as well that we have developed engagement packs to work with both the strategies, so the groups can have the packs and they can use them to consult with their own members. So, if any Members know of any groups that they think would like to be involved in the consultation, if you could e-mail me, that would be brilliant, because we're keen to get the maximum amount of engagement. Thank you.