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Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland has responded to new Government figures from the Office for National Statistics which shows a rise in suicide deaths for the first time in 5 years.

In 2018, there were 6,507 suicides registered in the UK. Three-quarters of registered deaths in 2018 were among men, which has been the case since the mid-1990s.

Samaritans CEO, Ruth Sutherland said: “It is extremely worrying that for the first time in five years, the suicide rate in the UK has increased, with 686 more deaths than in 2017. In particular, in recent years the rate of suicide in young people has increased, and the suicide rate in young females under-25 is the now the highest on record.

“There has also been a significant increase in the suicide rate in young men, since 2017. Significantly more men aged 45-49 took their own lives also, and middle aged-men remain the group at greatest risk of suicide overall.

“Every single one of these deaths is a tragedy that devastates families, friends and communities. Whilst the overall rise has only been seen this year, and we hope it is not the start of a longer-term trend, it’s crucial to have a better understanding of why there has been such an increase.

“We know that suicide is not inevitable, it is preventable and encouraging steps have been made to prevent suicide, but we need to look at suicide as a serious public health issue. 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 workplan that prioritises clear actions on how to reach the two-thirds of people who die by suicide who are not in touch with mental health services.

“The rising rate of suicide in young people is a particular concern. Whilst, suicide is complex and rarely caused by one thing, there are some common factors in young people who take their own lives. These include bereavement, mental or physical ill health, self-harm and academic pressure. We must understand what is contributing to the recent rise in suicides, and try to ensure this generation doesn’t carry a higher risk of suicide throughout their lives.”

Nick Stripe, Head of Health Analysis and Life Events at the Office for National Statistics, said: “We saw a significant increase in the rate of deaths registered as suicide last year which has changed a trend of continuous decline since 2013. While the exact reasons for this are unknown, the latest data show that this was largely driven by an increase among men who have continued to be most at risk of dying by suicide. In recent years, there have also been increases in the rate among young adults, with females under 25 reaching the highest rate on record for their age group.

“Looking at the overall trend since the early 80s, we are still witnessing a gradual decline in the rate of suicide for the population as a whole. We will continue to monitor the recent increase to help inform decision makers and others that are working to protect vulnerable people at risk.”

Ruth continued saying: “A major concern for Samaritans is the increase in self-harm among young people over the last 15 years, particularly in young women (increase of 13%). Self-harm is a strong risk factor for future suicide among young people. Research is urgently needed to understand this increase in self-harm so that effective support services and preventive measures can be developed. Self-harm must also be prioritised by governments and plans should equip young people with effective, healthy coping mechanisms and promote help-seeking by reducing stigma around self-harm.

“Samaritans has made self-harm a priority issue for our research and policy work this year. We are developing a programme of work to help ensure that people who self-harm get the support they need, ensuring the voices of people who self-harm are at the heart of this work. We are also working with tech companies and Government on an initiative which aims to limit harmful content online and maximise the support available.

“We’ll be publishing our annual Suicide Statistics Report next week which looks at rates across the UK and Republic of Ireland and explores detailed trends. This will include a focus on the rise of deaths by suicide amongst under 25-year olds. We hope these figures out today will prompt action to ensure the best support is available to anyone who needs it.”

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