Research has shown some very worrying developments in terms of suicide in the UK.
The number of suicides had been steadily decreasing since 1981, and the focus of the Labour government between 1997 and 2010 in reducing suicide numbers helped to reduce this number further still.
Following a focused campaign in recent years, numbers of suicides among younger men aged 25 - 34 – previously the highest – has been on a downward trend.
However, the Samaritans have found that suicide numbers have been sadly increasing since 2007. This increase is as a result of a number of factors, but most notable are the social impact of a very difficult economic situation. Unemployment, low wages and benefit cuts are all playing their part in this increase, and it is a very distressing situation.
Around 5000 people in the UK end their own lives each year - that's one death every two hours, and in 2013 there were 6,700 suicides in the UK and ROI. Professionals commonly acknowledge that these figures underestimate the true number for a variety of reasons – including continued social and cultural stigma of reporting death as suicide
Furthermore, for every suicide, there are another ten suicide attempts. Up to 16% of survivors try again within a year, with 2% of repeat attempts being fatal.
Shockingly, suicide remains the most common cause of death in men under the age of 35, and the male suicide rate is the highest it’s been since 2001: today, 78% of suicides are men. In comparison, in 1981, 63% of UK suicides were male – so there has been a dramatic increase in the last few decades. British men are three times as likely as British women to die by suicide.
More than 90% of suicides and suicide attempts are associated with a psychiatric disorder, the majority of which are depressive disorders and schizophrenia, while alcoholism can also play a significant part. To put this in context, 1 in 4 of us will suffer a mental health problem in any given year. But despite this, three-quarters of all people who end their own lives are not in contact with mental health services.
One in three young people who take their lives are intoxicated at the time of death.
The Samaritans have suggested that the increase in suicide rates in the UK over the last few years (4% increase in suicides from 2012 to 2013) is unsurprising given the context of a challenging economic environment and its social consequences.
In general, there are several demographic factors which are sometimes held in common amongst those most at risk of suicide. These factors include an individual being:
- Male Aged 50 or younger
- Poorer / Unemployed
- Unmarried / separated / widowed / divorced – and living alone
- LGBT / from a BME background
- History of childhood adversity e.g. sexual abuse or bereavement
- Previous suicide attempts
- Substance abuse
Facts on suicide prevention
Prevention of suicide is a responsibility for us all
. It is not the exclusive responsibility of any one sector of society.
For instance, schools can create cultures in which young people feel it is healthy to talk through how they’re feeling – particularly amongst young people. A&E staff can ensure all young people who have attempted suicide receive specialist mental health assessment. Each of us can pay close attention to the overall mental health of our loved ones to reduce the risks of them taking their lives.
Feeling suicidal is often a temporary state of mind. If appropriate and timely help and emotional support is offered to people who are experiencing deep unhappiness and distress, this can reduce the risk of them choosing to end their own life Attempts at suicide are often preceded by certain signs. These can include self-harm and expressing suicidal tendencies. These offer potential opportunities to intervene and save lives.
Despite this, three-quarters of all people who end their own lives are not in contact with mental health services.
For more information
To find out more about these issues, take a look at the Samaritans website
And if any of these issues affect you, or a loved one, there are many services which you can use which can help.
- You can speak to someone at the Samaritans on 116 123 (UK). The line is free and is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
- Talk to someone at CALM, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (which supports men in all sorts of issues) - their free London helpline is available on 0808 802 58 58
- Get in touch with the WISH Centre in Merton (which specialises in supporting those who self-harm)
- Call Childline (which specialises in supporting young people and children)
- Get advice from PAPYRUS (which supports young people and teenagers)
- Download the Grassroots 'Stay Alive' phone app which provides safety plans and immediate national crisis support lines
- Get in touch with the Depression Alliance community
- Contact Students Against Depression, which provides resources to find a way forward from stress, low mood, depression or suicidal thinking
- Read about suicide support, either for yourself or a loved on, on Mind's website
- And make contact with the NHS, and speak to your GP about professional treatment and support
Most importantly, if you are feeling suicidal and are about to harm yourself, or have already done so, phone 999 or get yourself quickly to your local hospital’s A&E. Tell them clearly that you are at risk to yourself - and remember that there is a lot of help out there, so don't suffer in silence.