Today’s Safeguarding blog about suicide is relevant for those working in a profession or organisation where they have a responsibility to safeguard vulnerable people or equally for anyone who wants to know how to help individuals at risk.
For anyone who has suicidal thoughts, the important thing to remember is that you are not alone and that there is help available to you.
As the NHS website points out:
“Many people who’ve had suicidal thoughts say they were so overwhelmed by negative feelings they felt they had no other option. However, with support and treatment they were able to allow the negative feelings to pass.”
What factors can lead to people taking their own life?
These can vary widely. Some mental health conditions, including depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can make suicidal thoughts more likely.
They can also be triggered by social and economic life events, including traumatic experiences such as abuse, the death of a loved one, the breakdown of a relationship, or financial problems. Those who misuse alcohol and/or drugs can also be at risk.
What do recent statistics tell us?
The only organisation that publishes a report that collates statistics on suicide for all of the countries in the UK and also for the Republic of Ireland is the Samaritans.
According to the Samaritans’ figures, in 2015 there were 6,188 suicides registered in the UK and 451 in the Republic of Ireland.
Its latest report also shows that:
- In the UK, the highest suicide rate is for men aged 40 to 44.
- In the Republic of Ireland, the highest rates are for men aged 25-34 and men aged 45-54.
- Although rates for male suicide remain a lot higher than for women, female suicide rates are currently at the highest they have been in a decade.
- Between 2014 and 2015, rates increased in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but decreased in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.
Figures for 2013 in England and Wales from the government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) list suicide as the leading cause of death for men aged 35-49 (13% of deaths). They also show suicide and accidental poisoning as the leading cause of death for those aged 20-34 (men: 24%; women: 12%). In 5-19 year old men, suicide is the second leading cause of death.
Why are the rates so high for middle-aged men?
All statistics show that the rates of suicide are significantly higher in men than women and that middle-aged men are particularly at risk.
The Samaritans have noted that suicides among men of this age tended to be those who come from the lowest socioeconomic groups, living in disadvantaged areas of the country.
Another suggestion by experts, reported in the Daily Telegraph, was that job losses in traditionally male careers, such as heavy industry, may have played a part, along with social changes in family life.
How accurate are statistics?
They are collected in slightly different ways in different parts of the UK and the clearest picture is found from analysing results over several years. Although most statistics are for individual countries within the UK, there can be significant regional variations. For example, rates are significantly higher in the north-west of England than in London.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that if a coroner is not certain that someone intended to take their own life, some deaths may be classified as “accidental” or “undetermined intent”. Examples might include someone who dies as a result of self harm or in a traffic accident that they may or may not have intended to cause.
What is being done to prevent suicide?
Working together to reduce suicide 2015-21 is a strategy by the Samaritans to understand who is most at risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviours and to reach out to these vulnerable people.
In January 2017, the government published its third progress report of its suicide prevention strategy in England.
The aim is to reduce the number of suicides by 10% by the end of March 2021 and there is a recognition that middle-aged men are particularly at risk. There are also plans for local areas to have multi-agency suicide prevention strategies in place by the end of 2017.
Where can people at risk go for help?
As well as talking to a friend, family member or person you trust, there are organisations that can help.
- Call the Samaritans free on 116 123; this is a 24-hour line offering support.
- Call NHS on 111, make an urgent GP appointment or visit your local A&E; explain how you are feeling so the appropriate help can be given.
- Visit www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Suicide/Pages/Getting-help.aspx
- Recommended reading: Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig.
The NHS website also has information on warning signs and how to help. If someone you know is at risk, listen without judging or trying to offer solutions. Individuals diagnosed with a mental health condition will have a care team who can offer help.