LONDON – The number of people taking their own lives in England has jumped more than a quarter in two years, according to provisional figures collated by the Office of National Statistics. The data compares the final three months of 2019 with the same period of 2017. It shows that there were 1,413 deaths attributed to suicide recorded during that time, Daily Mail reported.
According to statisticians, the suicide level reached 11.4 deaths per 100,000 people in late 2019 – which is a 19-year high. The figures, which are yet to be finalized found that the men accounted for 74 percent of suicides with the most common age between 50 and 54.
There was also a significant regional breakdown across England with the northeast of the country having the highest number – resulting in 12.8 deaths per 100,000 people. The corresponding figure in London is 8.4 per 100,000 and 8.5 per 100,000 in the northwest.
However, the proof needed for coroners to reach a determination of suicide in England and Wales was reduced in July 2018. This change could have seen a statistical increase in the number of deaths attributed to suicide which would have earlier been counted under a different classification.
Under the previous rules, a suicide determination could only be made if it reached the criminal burden of proof. Now coroners have to decide whether on the balance of probabilities someone intended to take their own life. According to the ONS, over the past 12 months, there has been a significant increase in the number of people taking their own lives.
The figures showed the number of women who took their own lives increased by only 160 between 2017 and 2019, whereas the number of men who died by suicide increased by more than 700 over the same period. The figures also show that men are far more likely to take their own lives compared with women.
In an earlier statistical release, the ONS said, “In 2018, there were 6,507 suicides registered in the UK, an age-standardized rate of 11.2 deaths per 100,000 population; the latest rate is significantly higher than that in 2017 and represents the first increase since 2013.”
“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,” Nick Stripe of the ONS stated.
“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,” he added.
Head of research at The Samaritans Dr. Elizabeth Scowcroft told The Independent, “Every single one of these deaths is a tragedy that devastates families, friends and communities. Suicide is complex and rarely caused by one thing.”
“Many of us may experience suicidal feelings in our life, but they are temporary, even if someone has been feeling low, anxious or struggling to cope for a long period of time. That’s why getting the right kind of support at the right time is so important,” she noted.
The ONS figures do not include the period of the coronavirus lockdown, which will not be available for about six months. Several people are already believed to have taken their own lives in recent weeks while in isolation. There are also fears over the mental health of front line NHS workers who are dealing with COVID-19 patients.
This has prompted the NHS to launch a mental health hotline to offer support to hundreds of thousands of health workers on the frontline in the fight against the COVID-19. Anyone needing help with the pressures they are facing will be able to call or text a free number staffed by more than 1,500 trained volunteers.