Sajid Javid has urged men to speak out about their mental health when he first spoke publicly about the loss of his brother who took his own life.
The health secretary said he still wonders if he could have acted to prevent his brother’s death, talking about his “deeply personal” mission to prevent suicide. Javid’s brother, Tariq, 51, took his own life at a hotel in Horsham, West Sussex, in July 2018.
“We learned afterwards that he had a physical health problem that he had not told anyone about,” Javid said. “And if we had just known, if he had talked to us, we might have done something,” he added. “Maybe I could have made a difference. And I’ll never get the answer.”
Suicide is the leading cause of death among men under the age of 50, and about three-quarters of the deaths due to suicide each year are men. Javid said that despite greater awareness in some societies, there remained “a stigma around talking about mental health issues”, adding: “And we need to get the message out that it does not matter what culture we come from. “We can all have a mental health challenge at some point in our lives, and there is nothing wrong with that. The most important thing is to tell someone, to talk to others and to seek help.”
Losing his brother changed the way Javid interacts with friends and family, he told the Sunday Times. “I make sure I get time for people and ask them how they are doing.” Javid said he became concerned during the pandemic when “a close family friend” developed serious mental health problems.
“Although he did not use the word suicidal, I was worried about the signs I saw and I absolutely insisted that he get mental health. At first he was very reluctant, but eventually he did, and now he is a much better place, and I’m not sure I would have done it before this tragedy happened to my family. “
Javid, 52, added: “I am blessed with four wonderful children – three who are young adults now – and I talk a lot more with them now about their feelings. Of course there are mental health professionals, but there is a role for all of us in this .
“If anyone is thinking of what they can do to help, the most important thing is to talk to your loved ones and your friends and ask them how they are feeling. But don’t just ask them the question in a way that they want to nod in – ask them how they really are and take your time. ”
Speaking at London’s headquarters for the suicide prevention charity Papyrus Friday, Javid said a refreshed suicide prevention plan was being developed, as well as better services for bereaved families and research to understand the causes of suicide.
“We must treat suicide with the same urgency as we treat any other major killer,” he said. “I’m determined to make a difference on this issue, and one of the ways we want to do this is by releasing a new 10-year suicide prevention plan. This is something that is deeply personal to me. – there are too many families who have been left incomplete and too much potential has been unfulfilled. ”
The long-term plan for suicide prevention seeks the views of the public, but only 19% of respondents have so far been men, according to the Department of Health and social care.
In 2018, West Sussex senior forensic pathologist Penelope Schofield ruled that Tariq Javid had taken his own life. The investigation heard he had left two letters to his partner telling her to “go on and enjoy life” before booking a room at a hotel in Horsham.