Letter: Monitoring suicides

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The Independent Online
Sir: The White Paper Health of the Nation has an objective 'to reduce the suicide rate of severely mentally ill people by at least 33 per cent by the year 2000'. This target includes both suicides and undetermined deaths.

Jack O'Sullivan has drawn attention in several reports (21 January, 8 February, and 15 July) to the plight of Peter Newman, a young man who suffered from schizophrenia. Mr O'Sullivan's latest report was about the open verdict arrived at by the jury at the inquest into Peter's death.

Peter's life and death illustrates many of the problems facing those who wish to reduce the risk of suicide among the troubled population of young people who are mentally vulnerable. Peter Tyrer (Letters, 11 February) wrote: 'Hundreds, and, more likely thousands, of similar accounts (such as Peter's) could be constructed in every part of the country.' It is thus vital that there should be monitoring of these tragedies coming before coroners' courts.

It would be encouraging to know if the Department of Health has any such plans. At the moment we are relying on responsible media interest, voluntary agencies and aggrieved relatives. Is this an approach that is going to supply all the lessons we need to learn in order to meet the Government's own stated objectives?

Yours faithfully,

JERRY WESTALL

Research and Communications

National Schizophrenia

Fellowship

Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

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