Suicide prevention strategy extended

Date published: 05 September 2023

The Department of Health is extending the Protect Life 2 Strategy for preventing suicide and self-harm to the end of 2027.

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While solid progress has been made in delivering on the strategy’s objectives since it was published in September 2019, challenges in relation to the budget and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have prevented full delivery.

The three-year extension will allow more time for fuller implementation and for the existing actions to be delivered.

The Department will also undertake a review of the strategy and action plan to help identify areas where additional priority is required and if there are any new actions which should be considered. The review is expected to be completed by spring 2024.

Department of Health Permanent Secretary Peter May said: “The very challenging financial situation facing the Department and the necessity to direct resource into the COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery, has unfortunately impacted on the pace of implementation of Protect Life 2.

“Taking stakeholder viewpoints into account and following discussion with other Departments, it was agreed that an extension would provide additional time for fuller implementation of the strategy and provide reassurance on future direction. Stakeholders will be invited to input into the upcoming review.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have been involved in the delivery of the strategy to date, including the Families Voices Forum for their continued support. Their knowledge and lived experiences are critical to informing policy developments.”

The Department of Health currently spends over £10 million annually on suicide prevention. This funding covers a variety of services including Lifeline, Self-Harm Intervention programmes, community support, and small grants.

Since the launch of Protect Life 2, progress has been made in a number of key areas. This has included:

  • The establishment of local implementation groups, regional steering group and surveillance arrangements
  • The launch of ComKit, a digital messaging and communications platform which supports communities after a sudden death
  • Roll-out of further suicide prevention and mental wellbeing training
  • Significant investment in small grants schemes
  • A review of the Sudden Death notification process
  • Ongoing community consultation on future service design and delivery of the Towards Zero Suicide programme to promote safer mental health services.

The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Michael McBride said: “As Chair of the Protect Life 2 Steering Group I welcome this extension which allows more time for fuller implementation and for the existing actions to be delivered.

“Undertaking a timely and proportionate review of the strategy will also enable us to identify any new areas requiring focus and the refinement of current actions to ensure best value within existing resources. There are a number of existing high priority actions which will require additional investment in future years to ensure Strategy delivery, including commissioning of postvention services, commissioning of a new Self-Harm Intervention Programme and Community Suicide Prevention Service and training.

“If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. This is a confidential service where trained counsellors will listen and help immediately on the phone and follow up with other support if necessary. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also access the Lifeline website at link opens in a new window / tab) or NI Direct at link opens in a new window / tab). You can also talk to your GP for advice.”



    Notes to editors: 

    1. The existing Protect Life 2 Strategy is available on the Department’s website: Protect Life 2 - Suicide Prevention Strategy | Department of Health (
    1. The Protect Life 2 Strategy is being extended for 3 years. This extension will run until the end of 2027. The Department will retain the option to extend the Strategy to 2029 should that be required.
    1. The decision to extend the strategy will be reviewed by any incoming Minister in future.
    1. Comkit can be accessed at
    1. Samaritans media guidelines for responsible reporting of suicide are available at: Samaritans' Media Guidelines
    1. Department of Health media enquiries should be directed to the Department for Health Office via email to
    2. Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt
    3. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The Duty Press Officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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