What is the role of evidence in shaping suicide prevention policy in Wales?

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.¹ Across the globe, 800,000 people die by suicide every year, translating to approximately one suicide death every 40 seconds (WHO, 2021). When considering the number of bereaved family, friends, and communities behind every single one of these deaths, the impact of suicide on our world is monumental.

The World Health Organisation stresses the importance of developing clear and cohesive national suicide prevention strategies as they instil responsibility and accountability among stakeholders, identify gaps in legislation and service provision, and indicate the human and financial resources required for intervention (WHO, 2021). The WHO also states that a national suicide prevention strategy should provide ‘authoritative guidance on key evidence-based suicide prevention activities ie. Identif[y] what works and what does not work’ (WHO, 2012).

This guidance highlights the importance of utilising evidence in the generation of national suicide prevention policy. However, suicide is a uniquely challenging context for evidence gathering, as population level data is often delayed and inexact. Moreover, the true reason why each individual life is lost to suicide is – by its very definition – unobtainable. Therefore, a broad range of evidence, guidance, expertise, and research must be drawn upon to answer the unanswerable.

Furthermore, the notion of evidence is not universally defined by policy actors, and the understanding of how this variation manifests in how evidence is used and valued is an empirical blind spot (MacKillop, Quarmby and Downe, 2020). Additionally, suicide prevention policy has been subjected to very limited academic enquiry, and little is known about the process of its production, much less about the role of evidence within that process.

Therefore, by examining the evidence base for Welsh suicide prevention policy, and interviewing key policy actors in the field, this project aims to further knowledge on the role of evidence in suicide prevention policymaking in Wales.


¹ World Health Organisation, 2021.


DOI: https://doi.org/10.54454/20220708