At their highest level since 2002, the number of recorded suicides rose by 11.8% in 2018, due widely to a 19 year high rate in deaths amongst those aged 10-24

New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that the rate of British suicides have risen to their highest levels in 16 years. 6,507 suicides were registered across the UK in 2018. This is significantly higher than those registered in 2017, representing the first increase in the number of suicides across the UK since 2013.

Of the recorded deaths, three-quarters (4,903) were men, as has been the case since the mid-1990s. Particular concern has been raised over the increase in young people aged 10-24 who have completed suicide, as the rate of deaths by suidice for this age group has reached a 19-year high, with the rates for young women reaching an all-time high.

Nick Stripe, Head of Health Analysis and Life Events for 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. 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.”

Samaritans CEO, Ruth Sutherland, responded to the release of these new figures. In a statement she 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 people 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.

“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.”

While suicide is most common amongst men in their 30s-50s, Ged Flynn, Chief Executive for PAPYRUS, the prevention of young suicide charity, highlighted the importance of engaging young women in the conversation.

“It is well established that suicide is the leading cause of death among men particularly in their 40s and 50s. This is a serious concern indeed. However, we must never forget that suicide is the leading cause of death in all young people in the 10-34 age range. Today’s ONS data release reminds us that women, and particularly young women, are self-injuring and ending their own lives in increasing numbers.

“Every day, amid hundreds of contacts from men and caregivers to our own HOPELINEUK service, PAPYRUS hears from girls and young women who are finding life too difficult to bear just now. Many are at the point of suicide when they contact us. Many have little hope until they speak to PAPYRUS.

“We must renew our efforts in this country to do all we can to intervene and stop preventable deaths among young men and women. Listening is good but we often need to offer more. Practical advice and safety planning are important. We can also engage emergency help to people in distress. This means sharing information to keep people suicide-safe.

“If we continue to collude with the silence that surrounds suicide, then I fear more young women and men will consider suicide. This is a national tragedy which needs to stop and now.

“Don’t forget the girls. Open a conversation with the young women you know and talk about suicide. That may help to save a life.”

If you are worried that you, a friend, family member, or loved one may be experiencing suicidal thoughts it’s important to seek help. If you or they are in need of immediate help or feel you may be at risk, go to your nearest A&E department or call 999.

If you feel A&E isn’t an option, or if you need to talk with someone, the Samaritans can be called for free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 116 123. Offering judgement and pressure-free listening, they are also available by email, letter, or across many physical branches across the UK.

Experiencing suicidal thoughts?

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, there are things you can do now to help you feel better in the short and long term. As Counselling Directory explains,

Things to do now:

  • Make sure you’re safe – your priority should be making sure you are safe if you are feeling suicidal. This may mean removing anything you could use to self-harm, or asking someone else to do this. Ensure you are in a safe location. If you have a crisis plan, now is the time to follow it.

  • Focus on the next five minutes – things can seem less overwhelming if you focus on small chunks of time, rather than the wider scale of things. Just think about getting through the next five minutes, reward yourself, and move onto the next five minutes.

  • Distract yourself – try distraction techniques if you feel the urge to hurt yourself. Holding an ice cube as it melts and focusing on the temperature; writing down how you feel and tearing up the paper; or concentrating on your breathing can all help to break the cycle of negative or spiralling thoughts, and help you to re-focus on what you are feeling here and now.

  • Speak with someone – call or visit someone to talk about how you’re feeling, try the Samaritans helpline or email. Remember: you are not a burden. You are loved. There are people out there who can offer help and support – you just need to take the first step to reach out and ask for help.

Things to do when you are feeling safer:

  • Speak with your GP – if you haven’t spoken with them before or are experiencing suicidal thoughts for the first time, booking an appointment with your GP is a great first step. They can help refer you to talking therapies, explore medication options, and let you know about specialist services in your local area.

  • Create a safety plan – having a plan in place can help you to feel more safe when you experience suicidal thoughts. This can also help friends and loved ones look out for you. Your plan may include early warning signs, coping strategies, phone numbers for those you can call during a crisis, or other steps you can take to make yourself safe.

  • Consider counselling – talking therapies can help you to understand why you’re feeling the way you are, as well as helping you find new ways to resolve or cope with your feelings. Counselling Directory has thousands of qualified, registered therapists across the UK with experience helping others deal with suicidal or distressing thoughts.

  • Find peer support – speaking with others who have had similar experiences can be helpful. Find support groups in your local area, or try online peer support networks such as Elefriends and Big White Wall.

As Counsellor Charlotte explains,

“When you reach the point that you feel life is not worth living and you feel that nobody will notice you're missing, just remember you are worth more than the value you have placed on yourself. You have the power to create a new ending to your story. Trust one more time. Trust yourself. Trust yourself to seek the help you not only need but deserve. It is OK to be scared, but you don't need to be scared alone. It is OK to feel anything that you are feeling. It is OK to feel nothing at all. It is OK to feel like your world is falling apart.

“It's OK to not know what to say to someone who feels suicidal. Sometimes sitting silently next to someone is a comfort in itself. It's OK to not know what to say to yourself when you feel suicidal.

“Speak to a counsellor. We are ready and waiting to hear you. To hear your story. To see your world how you see it. To support you and help you feel less alone. To give you a safe space to explore, accept and rewrite your story and its ending.”

To find a counsellor near you, use the search box below or visit Counselling Directory.