Suspected suicide information to be collected to prevent future tragedies

A new national monitoring system is being set up to collect information on suspected suicides as part of a wider approach to prevent future tragedies, the Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing Lynne Neagle has announced.

The Real Time Suicide Surveillance (RTSS) is being launched in partnership with Public Health Wales, all welsh police forces and the NHS Wales Health Collaborative and will collect information relating to sudden or unexplained deaths that are suspected to have been by suicide.  

This system has been developed due to the delay between an unexpected death, and the death being recorded as a suicide following a coroner’s inquest. This makes it difficult to implement an immediate response and support. The RTSS in Wales will provide information without this delay, enabling services to respond much sooner.

The information from the new system will support services to develop preventative approaches and to ensure support is made available to individuals and communities directly affected. This can include providing bereavement support.

Research suggests that for every person who dies by suicide up to 135 other people can be exposed, affected or bereaved, to varying degrees, and require support. The information from the RTSS will enable services to improve the timeliness of support.

Funding for the system is part of £50m additional money from the Welsh Government to improve mental health and well-being and work is also underway to improve bereavement support to provide a more compassionate response for both practical and emotional support at the different steps of the bereavement journey.

The establishment of the RTSS is one component in a wider programme of work to prevent suicides in Wales which includes increasing access to a range of self-referral support to prevent issues from escalating and improving crisis services.

The information collected will also be used to strengthen our understanding of self-harm and suicide, building on the historical data on death registrations reported annually through the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suicide bulletins.

Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle said,

The loss of someone to suicide is devastating for family, friends and whole communities. Preventing suicide is a major priority for me and establishing the RTSS provides a platform to strengthen our suicide prevention work. Vitally it will also enable us to provide timely support for those bereaved by suicide, who we know are at much higher risk of dying by suicide. 

The NHS Health Collaborative working with Public Health Wales and the Police demonstrates our strong partnership approach and shared commitment to prevent suicide in Wales. The launch of the RTSS is a key development to support the delivery of our Talk to me 2 Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention Strategy.

I will also be targeting increased investment in 2022/23 to suicide and self-harm prevention and this is underpinned by our wider programme of work to improve access to mental health support, particularly for those in crisis.

Policing Lead for Mental Health in Wales Assistant Chief Constable Dave Thorne said

Each tragic case of suicide is a life lost and it should be a constant reminder for us all, that we must work together to ensure that prevention remains a priority. Each and every loss of life through suicide leaves a legacy of bereft loved ones, families, friends and communities. The launch of the Real Time Suicide Surveillance (RTSS) System, the first of its kind in Wales, is a great achievement whereby multi-agency surveillance data will be available on a shared platform, enhancing our collaborative response. I would like to express my thanks to the dedication of those who have worked tirelessly to gather and co-ordinate the data from across Wales, and the impact of this new system cannot be underestimated. It will undoubtedly unlock cases to enable the right services to be put in place to prevent further loss of life, and support the wider commitment of Welsh Government.

Dr Rosalind Reilly, Consultant in Public Health for Public Health Wales, said:

Public Health Wales has worked with a range of partners across the system to develop the Real Time Suicide Surveillance System, a new initiative which will deliver data and insights to enable support to be delivered appropriately, and to build real understanding of the issues and challenges involved in this difficult area. We are grateful to the Welsh Government who have allocated the funding to allow this work to happen.