Male suicide at highest rate in 20 years

The suicide rate for men in England and Wales is at its highest rate for two decades, worrying new figures show.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found there were 5,691 suicides registered in 2019 and that men accounted for around three quarters of them.

The male suicide rate of 16.9 deaths per 100,000 is the highest it has been since 2000, though it has remained in line with the 2018 rate.

Charities have called on the government to put additional support in place, with the pandemic feared to be adding to the UK’s mental health crisis.

The ONS said it is unclear what impact coronavirus lockdown has had on suicide rates in 2020 due to delays to inquests.

Figures show that last year, men aged between 45 to 49 were the worst affected, while a break down by region showed the suicide rate was highest in Yorkshire and the Humber for both men and women.

Statisticians said that higher rates of suicide among middle-aged men might be because of economic hardship, isolation and alcoholism, and men in this category may be less likely to seek help.

Across England and Wales, the suicide rate for women was 5.3 deaths per 100,000, the highest since 2004. Deaths have increased ‘significantly’ in females aged between 10 to 24, from 81 in 2012 to 159 in 2019.

Responding to the latest figures, Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland said middle-aged men being most at risk ‘is a worrying trend that has persisted for decades’.

She also said it was concerning to see a continued increase in suicide rates among young people, ‘especially women under 25’.

She has called for ‘a comprehensive national real time surveillance system’ to monitor and respond to suicide rates ‘before it’s too late, to save lives.’

Ms Sutherland warned: ‘It is not inevitable that suicide rates will go up as a result of coronavirus, but we know that the pandemic is impacting on lots of people’s lives and exacerbating some known risk factors for suicide for some people who are already vulnerable.

‘Undoubtedly, the pandemic has affected everyone in society, but Samaritans is particularly worried about three groups: people with pre-existing mental health conditions, young people who self-harm, and less well-off middle-aged men. It is essential that these groups are given the support they need before people reach crisis point. Suicide prevention must be a priority right now, so we can save lives.’

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