Rise in the number of suicides in the South West

Posted by rayj on March 2, 2012 at 8:25 PM

Rise in the number of suicides in the South West

Hospital admissions for self-harm also rise

Public health leaders in the South West have outlined a new approach to combat a significant increase in the number of suicides and cases of self- harm in the region.

The number of suicides in the South West rose by 24% from 417 in 2007 to 515 in 2009, according to a report published by the South West Public Health Observatory today.

This follows a period of decline in suicide deaths following the publication of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy in 2002.

The report, Suicide and Self-harm in the South West, recommends that the incidence of suicide is now closely monitored, that any areas where there are higher number of suicides are identified and that where necessary health, mental health and social care organisations should work together to reduce risk.

Men account for three-quarters of these deaths and those most at risk are men aged 35-44 and 85 and over.

There is also a clear link with deprivation, with suicide rates in the most deprived fifth of areas more than twice the rate in the least deprived areas.

The report also found that there has been a large increase in the number of hospital admissions due to self-harm, from 6,271 in 2002/03 to 10,846 in 2008/09 – an increase of 73%. This is the second highest percentage increase in England. The fastest rise was in girls aged 15 to 24. Five percent of admissions for self harm were in people aged 65 and over.

Regional Director of Public Health, Dr Gabriel Scally said:

“Together these statistics reveal suffering on a scale that should concern us all. It is vital that we work with a wide range of partners in health, mental health, social care and the third sector to reverse these trends.”

Co-author of the report and Director of the South West Public Health Observatory, Dr Julia Verne, said:

“Although deaths from suicide account for a relatively small number of deaths overall (0.9%), each death is a tragedy for the individual, their family and friends. Also, because of the relatively young age at which people die, deaths from suicide in the South West account for 2.8% of years of life lost in the region through premature death. This report makes recommendations to enable agencies to work together more effectively to prevent suicide and self-harm and to improve monitoring of the data, which will help us target resources more effectively.”

Other key recommendations from the report are:

· Raise awareness of suicide and self-harm and their risk factors in health, social care, criminal justice and local community settings.

· Ensure robust training strategies are in place across sectors and services.

· Introduce social and coping skills for young people in schools.

Hanging is the most common method of suicide in men. In women, hanging and poisoning are the two most common methods. Poisoning is the most common reason for self-harm admissions. Over-the-counter drugs and prescribed drugs account for similar numbers of admissions and together they account for 87% of male and 92% of female poisoning admissions.

Self-harm, like suicide, is strongly linked with deprivation.

Dr Verne said: “As a society we must care for the vulnerable and ensure the provision of appropriate services and support. This report provides the evidence to help us do this.”


Notes to Editors:

1. For further information or to interview Dr Julia Verne, please contact Helen Bolton or Jon Templeton on Tel: 0117 970 6474.

2. The report, Suicide and Self-harm in the South West, is published by the South West Public Health Observatory (SWPHO) and available from the SWPHO website at www.swpho.nhs.uk. The research was commissioned by NHS South West.

3. The term ‘suicide’ includes all suicides and ‘undetermined deaths’ (i.e. where it was not clearly established by the coroner whether suicide was intended).


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