THE FACT that three quarters of the 70 or so people who take their own lives in Dorset every year are not in touch with the NHS, is a ‘societal failure’, according to a new report into suicide prevention in the county.

Wil Voitus van Hamme, Chair of the Dorset Mental Health Alliance, said that while he welcomed the intention to reduce the number of deaths by ten per cent by 2021, he was keen to put a more ambitious target in place.

“Seventy-seven per cent of suicides are completed without the person having been in contact with mental health providers,” he said. “ Although this is in line with national averages, we should still view this as a societal failure.”

Marianne Story, CEO of mental health charity Dorset Mind agreed. Whilst admitting she was ‘thrilled’ with the overarching plan, she wanted to see the ten per cent reduction target ‘stretched far beyond that’.

“With around 70 people a year dying from suicide in the county, we will make our own aspirations much higher than that and look forward to working as part of the partnership to do so,” she said, adding that her organisation was 'likely to encounter many of those at risk of suicide that do not come to the attention of NHS services'.

"We can all work together to reduce the incidence of suicide, and the impact that suicide has on those who are left behind," she said.

The plan is a joint exercise between Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group and other partners including the healthcare charity Dorset Mind. Publishing a strategy is part of the government’s National Suicide Prevention Plan and the Dorset Plan has five aims.

Health authorities want to reduce fear and stigma in high risk groups, promote mental health and wellbeing widely and reduce the means of suicide at hotspots using risk assessments.

They also want to provide support after a suicide has taken place and promote responsible reporting of suicide.

The Dorset Suicide Prevention Plan will now be discussed at next month’s meeting of the Dorset Mental Health Alliance.