Date Published: 14 April 2006

UK suicide rate now lowest since records began

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

New report shows suicide rate for young men is continuing to fall steadily

The national suicide rate is at its lowest level since records began, according to the third annual report of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy. The report also shows a sustained drop in the number of young men committing suicide - which is the first sustained downward trend for 25 years - and a drop in the number of suicides among prisoners and mental health in-patients.

The report shows the most recent suicide rate (for the 3 years 2002/3/4) was 8.56 deaths per 100,000 population - a reduction of 6.6% from the 1995/6/7 baseline. The target is to reduce the suicide rate by at least a fifth by the year 2010 (from the baseline rate of 9.2 deaths per 100,000 population in 1995/6/7 to 7.3 deaths per 100,000 population in 2009/10/11).

The report, which was jointly produced by the Department of Health and the National Institute for Mental Health in England (NIMHE), outlined specific areas where progress is being made:

  • the ongoing development of three mental health promotion pilots aimed at young men in Camden, Manchester and Bedfordshire
  • the commissioning of research into the risk of suicide and self harm amongst lesbian, gay and bisexual people and a separate research project looking at suicide risk amongst different ethnic minority groups
  • the phased withdrawal of the commonly prescribed painkiller co-proxamol
  • the three centre study of deliberate self-harm to help provide accurate data, trends and patterns to enable effective interventions to be developed.

Health minister Rosie Winterton said:

" Suicide is a major cause of preventable death in England and elsewhere. At a personal level, suicide is a terrible and needless tragedy, and each death is a loss to society.
_ The sustained decline in the suicide rate for young men is welcome. This shows that our suicide prevention strategy is having a real impact on the vulnerable people who most need help."

National director for mental health Professor Louis Appleby said:

" The fall in in-patient suicides is particularly encouraging news. In-patient safety has been a real focus for the NHS, including the introduction of specific measures such as better risk management, appropriate care and treatment for people who self harm and removal of ligature points from which hangings could occur.
_ Whilst these figures are positive, we must work hard to ensure that this downward trend continues. Changes in the suicide rate reflect the mental health of the community and every action we take to improve mental health services will help reduce these numbers further. "

Priorities for the next year include:

  • developing and publishing guidance on actions to be taken at hotspots for suicide
  • improving the way suicide and suicidal behaviour is portrayed in the media
  • promoting the successful intervention measures arising out of the evaluation of the mental health promotion pilots aimed at young men
  • publishing an information and support pack for people bereaved by sudden traumatic death, including suicide
  • encourage mental health services to provide early follow up to high risk patients who are discharged from hospital
  • implementing the NICE guidance on Depression and Self-harm
  • continuing to implement Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health Care, the five-year action plan for achieving equality and tackling discrimination in mental health services in England
  • taking forward the mental health promotion aspects of the White Paper Choosing Health.

Source(s): UK Dept. Health

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