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Number of suicides rises for first time since 2013

Official figures show a significant increase, particularly among men.

Samaritans said it wants suicide looked at as a public health issue (Jane Barlow/PA)
Samaritans said it wants suicide looked at as a public health issue (Jane Barlow/PA)

By Flora Thompson, PA Home Affairs Correspondent

The number of suicides has risen for the first time since 2013, with a “significant increase” among men, official figures show.

A total of 6,507 suicides were registered in the UK last year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, up from 5,821 in 2017.

Three-quarters of the suicides (4,903) in 2018 were men, at a rate of 17.2 deaths per 100,000.

The ONS said this represented a “significant increase from the rate in 2017” when 4,382 male suicides were recorded.

It added that the “exact reasons” for the rise are unknown but changes made in the last year to the way coroners record such deaths may be a factor.

We know that suicide is not inevitable; it is preventable, and encouraging steps have been made to prevent suicide, but we need to look at suicide as a serious public health issue Ruth Sutherland, Samaritans

In July 2018 the standard of proof used by coroners to determine whether a death was a suicide was lowered.

Samaritans chief executive Ruth Sutherland said: “It is extremely worrying that, for the first time in five years, the suicide rate in the UK has increased, with 686 more deaths than in 2017.

“There has also been a significant increase in the suicide rate in young men since 2017. Significantly, more men aged 45-49 took their own lives also, and middle-aged men remain the group at greatest risk of suicide overall.”

The figures show the highest rate of suicide by age in 2018 was among 45 to 49-year-olds, a rate of 27.1 deaths per 100,000 males.

Ms Sutherland added: “Every single one of these deaths is a tragedy that devastates families, friends and communities. Whilst the overall rise has only been seen this year – and we hope it is not the start of a longer-term trend – it’s crucial to have a better understanding of why there has been such an increase.

“We know that suicide is not inevitable; it is preventable, and encouraging steps have been made to prevent suicide, but we need to look at suicide as a serious public health issue.”

The Samaritans also said the rising rate of suicide in young people is a “particular concern”.

Suicides among women has remained broadly the same over the last decade but rates among under 25s had increased – particularly among 10 to 24-year-old females since 2012. The rate among this age group is at its highest level since current records began with 3.3 deaths per 100,000 females in 2018.

Ms Sutherland added: “Whilst suicide is complex and rarely caused by one thing, there are some common factors in young people who take their own lives.

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(PA Graphics)

“These include bereavement, mental or physical ill health, self-harm and academic pressure. We must understand what is contributing to the recent rise in suicides, and try to ensure this generation doesn’t carry a higher risk of suicide throughout their lives.

The charity YoungMinds said: “We urgently need a new government strategy which looks at the factors that are fuelling the crisis in young people’s mental health and which ensures that anyone who’s struggling to cope can get early support.

“We’re seeing some much-needed investment in NHS mental health services – but we need much more action to ensure young people can get early help, long before they reach crisis point.”

Nick Stripe, from the ONS, said: “We saw a significant increase in the rate of deaths registered as suicide last year, which has changed a trend of continuous decline since 2013.

“While the exact reasons for this are unknown, the latest data show that this was largely driven by an increase among men who have continued to be most at risk of dying by suicide.

“Looking at the overall trend since the early ’80s, we are still witnessing a gradual decline in the rate of suicide for the population as a whole.

“We will continue to monitor the recent increase, to help inform decision-makers and others that are working to protect vulnerable people at risk.”

The figures cover all deaths from intentional self-harm for people over the age of 10 and deaths where the intent was undetermined for those aged over 15.

PA

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