THE Welsh Government has unveiled new 10-year mental health and suicide prevention strategies amid concerns about stubbornly high numbers of people taking their own lives.

Lynne Neagle launched 16-week consultations on the draft mental health and suicide and self-harm prevention strategies on February 20.

The deputy minister for mental health told the Senedd the strategies are separate but interconnected, recognising that suicide and self-harm are not diagnosable mental health conditions.

She said: “There is 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.”

Torfaen MS Ms Neagle added: “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.”

She said: “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.”

James Evans urged the Welsh Government to engage with as many people as possible, particularly young and middle-aged men, who are more likely to take their own lives.

The Conservatives’ shadow minister also raised the importance of getting buy-in from health boards, given the challenging financial climate.

Mr Evans, who is currently steering the mental health standards of care bill through the Senedd, 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.”

Jack Sargeant – who recently shared his own experience with mental health following the loss of his father Carl, a former Welsh Government minister, and best friend of 20 years, Jamie – welcomed the draft strategies.

He said: “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.”

Stressing that mental health remains a priority, Ms Neagle told MSs that the funding ring fenced for frontline services has increased by £25 million.

“We are committed to reducing the number of people who die by suicide,” she said. “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.”