UK & World News

  • 22 January 2013, 13:38

'Significant' Rise In The Number Of Suicides

There has been a 'significant' increase in the number of people committing suicide, official figures show, with the male suicide rate reaching its highest level for nearly a decade.

The total number of people over 15 taking their own lives in 2011 - the last year for which figures are available - rose by 8% to 6,045, up from 5,608 in 2010.

The number of men who killed themselves, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), increased by 8% to 4,552. The rate of 18.2 per 100,000 was the highest level since 2002. 

Female suicides also rose 8% to 1,493 or a rate of 5.6 per 100,000.

The overall suicide rate in the UK increased from 11.1 to 11.8 per 100,000, while the highest suicide rate was among men aged 30 to 44 at 23.5 deaths per 100,000.

Among women, the highest rate of suicide was among 45 to 59-year-olds at 7.3 per 100,000.

There are fears that the rise may be down to stresses caused by the economic downturn. But it could also be because of changes in the way it is recorded.

Last year, the Samaritans published a report that said that 3,000 men in their 30s, 40s and 50s commit suicide each year, with men from deprived areas 10 times more likely to take their own lives than those from better-off backgrounds.

Experts concluded that men feel shame when they fall short of what they see as a "gold standard" of masculinity.

In 2011, additional guidance was given to improve the classification of narrative verdicts at inquests in England and Wales.

A narrative verdict is a long-form, factual record of how and in what circumstances a death occurred and is used as an alternative to short-form verdicts such as suicide.

There had been concerns among researchers that these classification rules forced the ONS to record probable suicides as accidents.

So in 2011, the ONS looked for common phrases used by coroners in inquest verdicts to see whether they could be classified as intentional self-harm.

The ONS said this additional guidance could have resulted in an increased number of narrative verdicts coded as intentional self-harm in 2011, which in turn could have contributed to the increase in the suicide rate.

Care services minister Norman Lamb said: "Losing a loved one to suicide is a tragedy. Even one life taken by suicide is one too many.

"The rise in the numbers of people committing suicide causes very real concern. We need to tackle this head on.

"We published a refreshed Suicide Prevention Strategy last year precisely because we take it seriously. The strategy targets those most at risk by providing the right interventions at the right time.

"We also need to make sure information about treatment and support is available to those who need them, including those who are suffering from bereavement following a suicide.

"Giving greater priority to mental health services, and to improving access, are also critical. The Government has made its intent on this very clear through the first NHS Mandate."

:: Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 08457 90 90 90 or email jo@samaritans.org.

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