Men still three times more likely than women to take their own lives in 2017, ONS says

The Office of National Statistics has released its annual report on suicide, which shows that there were 5,821 suicides registered in the UK in 2017. Last year saw a decrease in the number of male suicides, which is now at the lowest rate since ONS records began. Still, however, males account for three-quarters of all suicides registered last year, which has been the case since the mid-1990’s, the report says.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told Happiful: “Every single suicide is a tragedy and, despite this welcome reduction, the number of people who die by suicide remains too high. That is why suicide prevention remains a priority for this Government and we are investing record levels to transform mental health services so more people have access to treatment and care when they need it most.”

The Government spokesperson said that the new figures show that the number of suicides in England has reduced for the third consecutive year, and means that the national ambition to reduce suicides by 10% by 2020/21 is within reach.

The government updated the National Suicide Prevention Strategy in 2017 to strengthen its key areas for action, including expanding the scope of the strategy to include addressing self-harm as an issue in its own right. Through the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, the government has promised to invest £25m in suicide prevention over the next three years.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care announced a zero suicide policy ambition in January, which will see every mental health trust implement a suicide prevention policy this year. “We are asking mental health providers to start with mental health inpatients but also to be more ambitious to reduce suicides in all mental health patients,” the spokesperson told Happiful.

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland called the reduction in male suicides “encouraging” and said the focus of suicide prevention on men in recent years has contributed to this reduction. “Added to this, reducing stigma around men’s mental health and encouraging men to open up and ask for help when they are struggling has been beneficial. But one death by suicide is still one too many. Suicide is not inevitable, it is preventable. And when someone takes their own life the result is absolute devastation for those left behind,” Ruth said.

Northeast England has the highest rate of suicide and London has the lowest rate, according to new data. The highest suicide rate for men was for 45 to 49-year-olds; for women, the highest was among 50 to 54-year-olds.

“The suicide rate in females has remained stable over the last decade. It’s encouraging of course that there hasn’t been an increase over this time, but we believe more can be also be done to understand why women take their own lives and what works in terms of prevention.

“Suicide is complex and it’s a problem of inequality. It affects the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in society, both male and female, disproportionately. So, this is an urgent public health issue, not simply a health or mental health one,” Ruth said.

“Despite the recent decrease, we must all continue targeting expertise and resources at preventing men from taking their own lives, and work to reduce suicide across the board. That means working harder at understanding who is taking their own lives and why, and what support and interventions work best to save lives. We are also calling for more timely and accurate data so that we can monitor trends and respond to them quicker," Ruth said.

“We must also focus expertise and support on people who self-harm, given that research tells us that self-harm is the strongest predictor of future suicide.

“Politicians, employers, health bodies and educators all have a role to play in identifying and supporting those most at risk. With better awareness and education on suicide prevention, as well as better planning, together we will save lives. We are also calling for more timely and accurate data so that we can monitor trends and respond to them quicker.”

If you are struggling to cope, call Samaritans free on 116 123 (UK and Ireland), email, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of the nearest branch. Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them.

If you are not in crisis but you or someone you may know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, counselling may help.