On Thursday, new data from ONS about suicide deaths revealed a fall in the number of people taking their own lives. This decline in suicide overall can be seen as a culmination of everything Samaritans and other suicide prevention organisations are working for.
News that the number of suicides in 2016 had dropped by 202 compared with 2015 is welcome.
But, we need to remember that every suicide is a tragedy that leaves devastation in its wake. In 2016, 5,668 people took their own lives.
We need to act locally and nationally to keep suicide prevention at the top of the agenda.
Joined up suicide prevention activity works because it brings local expertise from different groups, including NHS, the police, local authorities, charities and people with personal experience together. The government has a unique opportunity, with £25million of new money for suicide prevention available from 18/19 - 20/21. We want this money to be used to support local actions as part of the implementation of the national suicide prevention strategy, recognising suicide as a public health issue and addressing it as such.
This includes continuing to make it okay for men to admit they're struggling, to talk to their mates about it, to get help. And to make it okay for any of us to ask someone if they're okay, and to feel confident in doing this. Samaritans has done this through our partnership with Network Rail, training more than 15,000 railway workers to identify and intervene to help vulnerable people.
What we are emphasising today and on Sunday, which is World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), is that effective joined-up suicide prevention makes a crucial difference. We need to work harder together now to keep the momentum going and sustain the falls in the suicide rate in future.
On WSPD, Samaritans is taking part as co-chair of the National Suicide Prevention Alliance with Rethink Mental Illness, representing the NSPA's 160 members, who deal with suicide and its effects every day. Suicide is everybody's business and we can all make a difference. The theme is Take a Minute, Change a Life, which aims to encourage us to connect with each other. #WSPD
Society is changing and whilst we are making strides in reducing the taboo around talking about mental health, there is still a long way to go to reduce the stigma in admitting suicidal feelings, and getting help, especially for some groups.
Suicide is complex and seldom the result of one thing alone. It is often the result of an interplay of related factors such as gender, individual differences, background and circumstance.
Awareness of the trends behind the numbers makes us better equipped to target suicide prevention where it is most needed. This year the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is looking at some of the reasons behind people taking their own lives. We have worked with them to tell the human story behind the figures - their article features the story of Samaritans' caller Kristian who bravely talks about his experiences to help us understand more about this important issue.
The suicide rate amongst men is still more than three times higher than it is among women. Research shows that men find it harder to reach out for help, perhaps because they are affected by the need to conform to a stereotype that they should be strong at all times and not show their pain when broken by life's challenges
Samaritans released a report earlier this year, Dying From Inequality, which showed that some people and communities need extra support.
Suicide is an inequality issue - the most deprived in society are more vulnerable. This is not about simply not having money, but a range of risks that an individual living in deprivation experiences. -
Working together we can do more to tackle these risks. Last year when Samaritans launched a campaign for effective suicide prevention plans, Local Action Saves Lives, only around 70 per cent of local authorities had a plan in development or in place. That has risen to more than 95 per cent.
Samaritans is committed to getting the message out to communities that there is action they can take. Samaritans 20,000 volunteers will continue to play their part by providing emotional support at their branches around the country.
The fall in suicides shows that we are making progress and that is a big step. We need to go further and faster, to change more people's lives and help to save them.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Rethink Mental Illness advice and information service is open 9:30 - 4pm Monday - Friday - 0300 5000 927. They have over 100 factsheets with easy to understand information on a variety of issues related to mental health
- CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a registered charity, which exists to prevent male suicide in the UK. Call 0800 58 58 58 or visit thecalmzone.net
- The Mix is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: email@example.com
- HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41