Right of Reply: Simon Armson

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The Independent Culture
The chief executive of the Samaritans responds to

Jeremy Laurance's article on suicide

WHILE I welcome Jeremy Laurance's piece ("Why suicide rates in men are dropping"), it is important to highlight the relationship between access to means of suicide and suicide rates.

Mr Laurance seems to have misunderstood The Samaritans' response to these figures. Indeed his own response seems contradictory. We are delighted by any moves which reduce suicide. For example, we welcome the recent moves for smaller paracetamol pack sizes - another attempt to reduce suicide through reduced access to means of suicide.

While the Government is in the business of reducing access to means, though, we are in the business of improving access to help.

One in every 100 people who attempts suicide will die by suicide within a year of an attempt, a risk that is about 100 times that of the general population. The risk increases dramatically with every attempt. Suicide kills two young people a day, 80 per cent of whom are young men. It would be difficult to suggest this was an acceptable figure.

So while a saved life means the survivor now has the chance to "renew" it, they must be offered help to do this. Very many survivors say they hadn't wanted to die, they just couldn't go on living the way they were. The Samaritans encourages callers to consider the finality of suicide and to explore other options. They encourage people to contact them sooner rather than later in a bid to address the sense of despair before it reaches suicidal proportions.

The Samaritans believes that, in a community with improved emotional wellbeing, fewer "impulsive and desperate gestures" in the form of suicide attempts will take place. How can Mr Laurance consider that a problem?

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