Owen Paterson, MP for North Shropshire, has been appointed as the vice-chairman of Westminster’s all-party parliamentary group on self-harm prevention.
His wife, Rose, took her own life nine months ago this week and he says he is acutely aware of the effect mental health has, not only on those suffering it but their family, friends and all those around them.
He said it was a “great honour” to be elected to the position on the group and said he would continue his campaign to try to prevent others from having to suffer.
Since the death of his wife, the MP has said that if speaking out about her situation will prevent the death of just one person then he will continue to work to stop other tragedies.
“My real worry is that we are going to see a huge spike in people attempting to end their lives in the coming years, because of the economic downturn,” he said.
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The effect on people’s mental health of lockdown is also something Mr Paterson worries will lead to an increase in self harm. And he also worries about the huge numbers of people affected by each situation.
“What we have seen is the huge affect that Rose’s suicide has had on so many people,” he said.
“We are acutely aware of the extraordinary damage, not just to the person whose life is lost but to those around them.
“There are some really shocking findings in a national suicide bereavement report by Dr Sharon McDonnell, the director of Suicide Bereavement UK. She found that each suicide impacts an average of 135 people. That means that 877,500 people are profoundly affected per year.”
Since Mrs Paterson’s death at their family home near Ellesmere last June he has talked to a wide range of individuals and organisations.
The MP says all-party parliamentary groups have leverage both in and outside Westminster.
They include representation from government, charities and other organisations and frequently work with partners to develop national preventative strategies, review the current situation and offer support to those in need.
“I have had talks on both a local and national level and had talks with ministers including the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock,” he said.
Mr Paterson is also chairman of the all-party group on spinal injuries and said it had played a major part in seeing spinal services retained during the past year.
He suffered three broken vertebrae in a riding accident in 2018 and spent several weeks as a patient in the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital, Oswestry.