A piece by Greg Hurst in today’s Times. As always men’s high suicide rate is viewed through the lens of mental health issues and men failing to seek help, rather than accepting the simple fact that far more men than women objectively face life stresses which take them to the point of wishing to take their own lives.
Suicides among young people and men have soared over the past year, pushing the national rate to its highest in four years and reinforcing concerns about care for mental health.
There were 6,507 suicides registered in Britain last year compared with 5,821 the previous year, a rise of 11.8 per cent.
Suicides by men aged 20-24 rose from 279 deaths in 2017 to 363 last year, an increase of 30 per cent. The number of women under 25 and girls killing themselves has risen significantly since 2012, from 106 to 188 deaths.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures have overturned a decline in suicides over the past four years, and have pushed the rate from 10.1 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017 to 11.2 deaths per 100,000 last year.
The rate among men rose year on year from 15.5 to 17.2 deaths per 100,000 men. Among women there was a much smaller rise, from 4.9 to 5.4 deaths per 100,000. While there were significant rises in younger age groups, people in their late forties are still the most at-risk age group.
The ONS figures record only registered suicides and are likely to underestimate the actual number. Many coroners prefer to record narrative or open verdicts but a High Court ruling in July last year, upheld in the Court of Appeal, may have led to more suicide verdicts this year. This introduced a lower standard of proof — that it was “more probable than not” that the person intended to die, rather than coroners or juries being “sure”.
Some clinicians and charities linked the risk to pressure on mental health services and called for more co-ordinated action across government.
Bernadka Dubicka, vice-chairwoman of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ child and adolescent faculty, said: “There is a mental health crisis among the youngest in society and those struggling with their mental health are waiting too long for the care they need.”
Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of the Samaritans, said: “We have known for many years that suicide is a gender and inequality issue, with middle-aged men in disadvantaged communities most at risk. Yet we still don’t have a comprehensive, cross-departmental government work plan that prioritises . . . how to reach the two thirds of people who die by suicide who are not in touch with mental health services.”
Since the 1980s suicide rates have risen with age, peaking among people aged 45-49, which statisticians said was likely to be linked to isolation after a relationship breakdown, debt, unemployment or alcoholism. It then falls until another, smaller, increase once people reach their eighties, by those with chronic or terminal illnesses.
Scotland had the highest suicide rate and England the lowest. Within England the rate was highest in the northeast, Yorkshire and the Humber, and lowest in the southeast and London.
A separate ONS analysis in 2017 found that middle-class professionals such as managers, directors and senior officials had the lowest risk of suicide and that men in the lowest-skilled jobs had a 44 per cent higher risk of suicide.
The figures were published as King’s College London announced that it was launching a £8 million research centre that it said would be Britain’s first to investigate the impact on mental health of rapid social changes, including the effect of social media and precarious employment on young people.
Craig Morgan, professor of social epidemiology at the university and co- director of the Centre for Society and Mental Health, said: “The factors that drive . . . poor mental health lie in our communities, schools and workplaces.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are transforming mental health services with a planned record spend of £12.1 billion this year.”
How to get help
If you are affected by suicidal thoughts, the Samaritans helpline is available for free support 24 hours a day on 116 123 or you can contact them at www.samaritans.org
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