Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland responds to today’s ONS figures*
“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.
“Samaritans has made self-harm a priority issue for our research and policy work this year. We are developing a programme of work to help ensure that people who self-harm get the support they need, ensuring the voices of people who self-harm are at the heart of this work. We are also working with tech companies and Government on an initiative which aims to limit harmful content online and maximise the support available.
“We’ll be publishing our annual Suicide Statistics Report next week which looks at rates across the UK and Republic of Ireland and explores detailed trends. This will include a focus on the rise of deaths by suicide amongst under 25-year olds. We hope these figures out today will prompt action to ensure the best support is available to anyone who needs it.”
Samaritans 2019 Suicide Statistics Report pulls together the statistics from national statistical agencies to produce an overview of the latest suicide rates and trends for the UK. The report will be available here on 10 September; World Suicide Prevention Day.
For more information or to arrange an interview please contact Samaritans Press Office on 020 8394 8300 / [email protected]. Elizabeth Scowcroft, Head of Research and Evaluation is available for interview.
Notes to Editors
*Source: Office of National Statistics - Suicides in the UK: 2018 registrations (excludes Republic of Ireland data).
- Deaths by suicide in UK rose by 11.8% in 2018, according to new figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) today.
- In 2018, 6,507 suicides were registered in UK, up from 5,821 the year before. The rate of deaths among under 25s increased by 23.7% from 2017 to 2018 with 730 under-25s taking their own lives in 2018, up from 590 in 2017. The overall increase in suicide in the UK appears to be driven by the increase in male suicide. Males aged 45-49 years still have the highest rate of suicide (18.1 per 100,000).
- Samaritans defines ‘self-harm’ as any deliberate act of self-poisoning or self-injury without suicidal intent. This excludes accidents, substance misuse and eating disorders.
- Samaritans Media Guidelines on reporting suicide can be found here
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