Sajid Javid on his brother’s suicide: ‘I should have asked him how he was feeling’

Former UK health secretary says suicide should be treated like any other major killer

Sajid Javid delivers a speech in Manchester in 2019
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Former health secretary Sajid Javid has spoken of his heartbreak at not calling his brother more and asking how he was feeling before he took his own life.

Mr Javid's older brother Tariq committed suicide in July 2018 at the age of 51.

It has led Mr Javid to call on the government to take more action to help prevent suicide – the biggest killer of people under 35 in the UK.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the former cabinet minister said the government needs to treat suicide like any other major killer.

"It is almost five years since we lost my brother to suicide," he said.

"We did see it coming as a family. But there is not a day goes by that I have not thought what I could have done, what I could have said, that could have made a difference.

"I was home secretary, we are all busy, but I should have called him more, I should have asked him how he was feeling and I didn't. My family continues to go through a lot of pain and we can prevent that for other families by speaking to people.

"He didn't open up, I didn't ask him and my brothers didn't ask him, we didn't push, there were signs of him not feeling very well, having some significant challenges in his life, and we didn't ask. So ask your loved ones how they are feeling, it's OK to speak to them, there's no stigma.

"Suicide is the biggest killer of people under 35 and of men under 50. We should be treating this like any other major killer. The charities are massively pressured with resources and help. The Chancellor announced this year he will give them more funding but much more needs to be done."

Mr Javid said that in his role as health secretary he committed the government to a 10-year national suicide prevention initiative.

He said every government department has a role to play.

"I would like to see the government committed to a target," he said.

"When you have something as important as this, the biggest killer of people under 35, you should have a target to galvanise ministers, to hold them accountable to delivering this strategy."

Last week the UK's National Crime Agency launched an investigation into the deaths of 88 people in Britain who bought products from a Canada-based website that was allegedly selling lethal substances to assist with suicide.

Updated: September 01, 2023, 1:21 PM