This article was originally published in The Sun, 08/9/2023: www.thesun.co.uk/health/23881529/sajid-javid-suicide-prevention-raising-awareness-brother/
N July 2018, I received the news that my older brother, Tariq, had taken his own life.
It was a complete shock. No one had seen it coming.
Even more so because at a family wedding just a few weeks before, everything had seemed normal.
I often wonder if I could have done more to help.
It is a question I will never know the answer to, and one that always brings feelings of guilt.
Sadly, our experience as a family is not unique.
Across the country, too many communities are devastated by suicide.
More than 5,000 people in England took their own life in 2021.
Suicide is also the single biggest killer of the under-35s and men under 50.
But there is still so much to do.
This must start with a new suicide prevention strategy published by government.
Expected very soon, these measures will make sure every department has a plan to help turn the tide.
But there are areas where we can still go further.
That’s why doing more to support hard-hit communities is so important.
The 2019 Conservative manifesto rightly included commitments to level up and unleash the potential of every community.
So failing to deliver key commitments on mental health, including the Mental Health Bill, would be a significant mistake.
Ministers can also go further to make sure we have clear and ambitious targets to reduce suicide.
These targets exist for many other health issues, so why should this be any different?
I know from experience that targets are crude and imperfect, but they can be effective in holding ministers and officials accountable.
But the Government cannot do it alone.
In fact, so much of the recent progress has been led by individuals, community groups and charities across the country.
Given that, it is concerning so many groups face a cliff edge in March when their funding is due to end.
In November’s Autumn Statement, the Chancellor should take the opportunity to extend support for charities.
One group I visited in Bristol was Talk Club.
Set up four years ago, they now have 75 clubs across the world and provide a space in pubs, cafes and homes for people to discuss mental fitness.
Every meeting starts with the question: “How are you feeling out of ten today.”
This group, and countless other charities, have a simple mission, which is to talk more, ask more and listen more.
I wish I had known how my brother was feeling — and when I look back I should have asked him more often. I will never have that chance again.
But Sun readers do.
So this weekend, phone a friend and ask them how they are doing — or how they are feeling out of ten.
Let’s start a national conversation and see how much of a difference we can make.
This World Suicide Prevention Day, let’s see how many lives we can save.