Wales

Filmmaker Andrew Jenkins tells of 19 friends' suicides

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Media captionAndrew Jenkins said he still remembers the 19 friends he lost

A man who says he has lost 19 friends to suicide over three decades has spoken out so that other people might think twice about killing themselves.

Filmmaker Andrew Jenkins, 52, from Blaenau Gwent, plans to make an educational film about the issue.

This comes as the latest figures show a sharp rise in suicide rates in Wales, particularly among men.

In 2013, 393 suicides were recorded in Wales, up from 334 in 2012.

The number of men taking their own lives has risen from 21.4 in 2012 to 26.1 per 100,000 population in 2013, which is the highest figure since 1981.

The rate for women in Wales is 5.8, down from 5.9 in 2012.

The Welsh rate of suicide is higher than the UK figure of 11.9 deaths in 2013.

'Frightening suicide rate'

Meanwhile, a health watchdog is concerned about waits for mental health services after a Cardiff man's suicide before he could get counselling.

Mr Jenkins now lives in Monmouthshire but has spoken about 19 people he knew and grew up who took their own life in Blaenau Gwent over a 30 year period.

"Through the early '80s there seemed to be one every other month.

"You think of them individually quite regularly, especially when you see their family, but when you sit down and write the list, it frightened me to be honest."

He said he wishes they could look at the whole picture and the pain it leaves with the family.

'Pressures on men'

Mr Jenkins plans to make an educational film on the topic with award winner director Peter Watkins-Hughes based on their own personal experiences later this year.

Stephen Habgood, chairman of charity Papyrus which is concerned with young people's suicides, said 75% of people who took their own lives were young men and he expected to see an increase in suicides among middle aged men in the latest Office for National Statistics figures.

"It's all caught up with men unwilling to admit they can't cope and are struggling. The recession raises concerns at the pressures it places on men, when their jobs or relationships are at risk as a consequence.

"There needs to be more support. We believe we should be asking young people not waiting for them to say. There's a myth that if you raise the subject of suicide you put the idea in their head. That's not the case at all, you just give them permission to say how they feel."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The government is considering how best to proceed on this issue."

There were "lost opportunities" to help a Cardiff man who took his own life on a railway line.

The man in his early 30s had a history of self harm, alcohol and drug abuse and had taken overdoses.

Two weeks before his death in January 2013 he took an overdose but was discharged from hospital and remained on a waiting list for counselling. His widow received an appointment letter two months after his death.

An inquest concluded that "there was a failure by those treating him to identify his suicidal intent."

Image caption Nick Bennett is also to write to all GPs in Wales

Now the public services ombudsman Nick Bennett has found "lost opportunities" by Cardiff and Vale health board to properly evaluate the unnamed man's mental health and to comprehensively assess him.

He said his GP practice in Rumney continued prescribing benzodiazepines, contrary to national guidance - which says they should be for short term "crisis" use.

The practice apologised to his widow for the appointment letter being sent, while saying there was a two year wait for psychotherapy appointments in Cardiff and up to eight months for practice-based counselling.

"It is possible that if the waiting list for counselling had been shorter, or if there had been better services for stress-related issues within the NHS, this tragic outcome may have been avoided," said the practice.

Mr Bennett said he would be drawing a number of concerns about the waits for mental health services to the Welsh government.

All GPs in Wales are to be reminded about taking properly recorded suicide risk assessments and the "inadvisability" of prescribing benzodiazepine in the long term.

The ombudsman has told the health board and GP practice to both apologise for failings and to pay the widow £3,000.

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