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New minister for stopping suicides made cliff-leap joke

THE new minister for suicide prevention has been criticised for once joking that she would ‘sooner jump off Beachy Head than join Ukip’.

Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price’s remark emerged on World Mental Health Day yesterday — hours after she was handed the newly-created post.

The Tory (pictured) made the comment when asked by a Thurrock Gazette reporter in 2014 if she felt tempted to defect to Ukip.

Brian Dow, a director of charity Rethink Mental Illness and co-chair of the National Suicide Prevention Alliance, said such jokes belong in ‘the dustbin of history’.

He added: ‘As a nation, we have taken steps to gain a greater understanding of mental illness — on that journey, it is fair to say that many of us might have slipped up and made comments that promote stigma, rather than to champion education about issues like suicide.’ An estimated 20 people kill themselves each year by jumping off the Beachy Head cliffs in East Sussex.

The suicide prevention role was announced by Theresa May, who also pledged £1.8million to ensure the Samaritans helpline stays free to use for the next four years. Mrs Doyle-Price, already a health minister, said on accepting the post that she knew the ‘tragic, devastating and long-lasting’ effect of suicide.

Jeremy Corbyn, who highlighted a loss of 5,000 mental health nurses since 2010 in the Commons, said through his spokesman that any comment which increased stigma or disrespect was ‘completely inappropriate’.

No.10 said Mrs Doyle-Price had ‘a serious job she will be taking forward’.