Middle-aged men are now the group at highest risk of committing suicide in England, statistics reveal.
Men aged 35-49 years old have the highest rate of suicide and will be targeted in a new suicide prevention strategy launched by the government yesterday. It is backed by a call to action led by the Samaritans and up to £1.5 million for new research and focuses on supporting the bereaved families of suicide deaths, as well as preventing suicide amongst groups that are at risk.
Key reasons for the change are thought to be job or money worries due to the recession, according to the new government strategy, however it is not as clear cut as that there is usually numerous factors in something so complex.
Research had shown that stigma associated with mental health problems could be a key aspect of people not going to their GP for help, so the Government is committed to supporting Time to Change, the national anti-stigma campaign for people of all ages and backgrounds.
Suicide rates among young men – previously the most at-risk group – have fallen. There was a total of 4,215 suicides recorded in 2010. In recent years the number of suicides has fallen but the most recent figures show that in 2008-10 the three-year average suicide rate for 35-49 year old males was the highest of any group, at 20.8 per 100,000 population.
According to the strategy:
Previously, periods of high unemployment or severe economic problems have had an adverse effect on the mental health of the population and have been associated with higher rates of suicide.
Evidence is emerging of an impact of the current recession on suicides in affected countries.
Several key areas for action have been identified including:
- a better understanding of why people commit suicide and how it can be prevented – supported by new suicide prevention research funding
- better support for high-risk groups – such as those with mental health problems and people who self-harm
- reducing opportunities for suicide, by making sure prisons and mental health facilities keep people safer and by safer prescribing of potentially lethal drugs
- providing better information and support to those bereaved or affected by suicide.
Care minister Norman Lamb said:
“Over the last 10 years there has been real progress in reducing the suicide rate, but it is still the case that someone takes their own life every two hours in England.
We want to reduce suicides by better supporting those most at risk and providing information for those affected by a loved one's suicide.”
Catherine Johnstone, chair of the call to action steering group and chief executive of Samaritans, said:
“For the strategy to be a success it requires local agencies to implement the recommendations. We are calling on all local authorities to develop their own plans and initiatives, to make sure less lives are lost to suicide.”
Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, welcomed the strategy, but said:
“As with all strategies, the real value comes with implementation.
The funding pledged for research is a vital contribution. However, at a time when there are cuts to health services, we would strongly urge the government to invest in the services it expects to deliver this strategy.
In addition, as our new health minister has today acknowledged, suicide prevention is everyone's business, so we need to see a real commitment from all government departments in supporting those at risk.”