Suicide rate falls in St Helens but is still fifth highest in the country

The suicide rate in St Helens has fallen for the first time since 2008-10, according to new figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Wednesday, 4th September 2019, 10:05 am
St Helens has the fifth highest suicide rate in England and Wales

Last year it was revealed St Helens had the highest suicide rate in England and Wales.

New ONS data shows number of suicides in the borough has fallen and the rate following a steady increase over the past decade.

The figures show between 2016 and 2018, there were 75 suicides in St Helens at a rate of 16.1, based on suicides per 100,000 population.

This means St Helens has the fifth highest suicide rate in England and Wales.

Between 2015 to 2017, St Helens had a suicide rate of 17.9 – equating to 83 suicides.

In 2018 there were 17 suicides recorded in St Helens, the lowest since 2010 when nine suicides were recorded.

It is also a 71 per cent drop from the 29 suicides recorded in both 2016 and 2017.

A spokesman for St Helens Council said: “One life taken through suicide is one too many.

“The heartbreak is felt by so many more people too and as a community we believe everyone can play a role in looking after each other.

“We have been working hard to create a culture that encourages people to speak out and reduce the number of suicides in St Helens.

“These figures which place us fifth nationally, while still too high, show a decrease in the numbers of suicides in St Helens.

“In 2018 we saw the lowest number of deaths due to suicides and undetermined injury since 2010 but we still want to do all we can to make people know there is support out there for them when they feel that things might be difficult.

“We expect to see this trend continue locally and would hope to see our figures fall further in the next few years as we saw a spike in suicides in 2016 and 2017.

“We can all play our part by speaking to our friends, family members and work colleagues about our mental wellbeing and breaking down the taboos of not being open about how we all feel."

Across the UK, there were 6,507 suicides recorded in 2018, up from 5,821 the previous year.

Three-quarters of the suicides (4,903) in 2018 were men, at a rate of 17.2 deaths per 100,000, while 1,604 were women at a rate of 5.4.

The figures show the highest rate of suicide by age in 2018 was among 45 to 49-year-olds, a rate of 27.1 deaths per 100,000 males.

While suicides among women has remained broadly the same over the last decade, under 25s have seen the highest rate since current records began, with 3.3 deaths per 100,000 females in 2018.

Suicides among young men continues to rise.

In response to the ONS figures, Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of the Samaritans, said suicide needs to be treated as a “serious public health issue”.

She said it is “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,” Ms Sutherland said.

“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.”

Next week the Samaritans will publish its annual Suicide Statistics Report to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day.

The report looks at rates across the UK and Republic of Ireland and explores detailed trends, including a focus on the rise of deaths by suicide among under 25-year-olds.

“The rising rate of suicide in young people is a particular concern,” Ms Sutherland said.

“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.”

St Helens Council said it is currently providing a wide variety of training to those who want to know more about how to support people.

It said in 2018-19 it provided hundreds of sessions in suicide knowledge, self-injury and Zero Suicide Alliance training to frontline staff, community, religious and voluntary groups along with other professions.

The council is also working in partnership with State of Mind, Rugby League Cares and Saints R.L.F.C to provide mental health sport-focused support groups for men to reduce isolation and improve mental fitness.

The ONS said the UK is still seeing a gradual decline in the rate of suicides.

Nick Stripe, from the ONS, 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.

“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.”