Sajid Javid tells of ‘deeply personal’ crusade for suicide prevention after brother’s loss
Health secretary’s brother took his own life about four years ago British Health Secretary Sajid Javid (Photo by Hannah McKay – WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Health secretary Sajid Javid has called for treating suicides with the same urgency as “any other major killer” as he set out his “deeply personal” mission to address mental health issues of people.
“I am determined to make a difference on this issue,” said Javid whose brother took his own life four years ago.
In 2018, Javid’s brother Tariq had left two letters to his partner, telling her to “carry on and enjoy life” before he booked a room at a hotel in Horsham in West Sussex. He was found dead later.
“Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a loved one,” Javid said and wondered in hindsight if anything could have been done to avert the tragedy.
“We learned afterwards that he had a physical health problem that he hadn’t told anyone about. And if we had just known, if he had talked to us, perhaps we could have done something,” the Guardian quoted him as saying.
“Maybe I could have made a difference. And I guess I will never know the answer to that.”
Efforts are ongoing to engage those living in socio-economically deprived areas and other communities which are at the greatest risk, he said adding that bereavement services would also be encouraged to proactively contact immediate family members of those who have taken their own life within days of a referral.
A national surveillance system would be rolled out early next year to look for patterns that put people at risk of suicide, including examining the impact of social media, he said.
“I heard heart-breaking tales of love and loss but also inspirational stories of the work being done to divert people from this painful path”, he said at the London headquarters of the suicide prevention charity Papyrus last week.
Men in their 40s and 50s make up a disproportionately high proportion of suicides and encouraging people to speak up would help the prevention efforts.
The health secretary said more people are being open about their mental health because of the “trailblazing courage of campaigners and thousands of quiet conversations in homes, schools and workplaces”.