Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland responds to today’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures on suicide*
There were 5,691 suicides in England and Wales in 2019, that is 321 more compared to the year before. Although the suicide rate has remained the same as in 2019– 11 deaths per 100,000 people, the rates remain significantly higher than in recent years.
“Men aged 45-49 remain at the highest risk of suicide in 2019 – a worrying trend that has persisted for decades. We are also seeing a continued increase in suicide rates among young people, especially females under 25, where the rate has increased since 2012 to its highest level in 2019. 2019 has also shown a disturbing increase in rates among people aged 25 to 44 - a trend which has continued since 2017 for men and 2016 for women. With the impact of the pandemic this year taking a huge toll on people’s mental wellbeing, we should be even more concerned.”
“Today’s figures provide important information about suicide in 2019 and part of 2020 for England. But, it’s important that we don’t attribute this rise to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly as the data reflects when a death is registered following an inquest, so many of the suicides in the 2020 data will have actually occurred in 2019, before the pandemic began. We must therefore use this data responsibly and remember we don’t yet have a clear picture of what has happened this year, because of the persistent problem of reporting delays for suicides. This shows why we urgently need a comprehensive national real time surveillance system to be able to monitor and respond to any increases in suicide rates in a timely manner, before it’s too late, to save lives.
“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. From our own research which looked to understand how coronavirus is affecting people who access our services, we know that callers are generally more anxious and distressed than before the pandemic. Volunteers are telling us that many callers have been worried about losing their job and/or business and their finances, with common themes around not being able pay rent/mortgage, inability to support the family, and fear of homelessness.
“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.”
For more information, please contact the Samaritans Press Team at [email protected] or 020 8394 8300
Notes to Editors
- *Source: Office of National Statistics - Suicides in England and Wales: 2019 (excludes Scotland, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland data)
- Deaths by suicide in England and Wales rose by 6% in 2019, according to new figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) today.
- In 2019, 5,691 suicides were registered in England and Wales, up from 5,370 the year before. The overall increase in suicide in the UK appears to be driven by the increase in male ad female suicide.
- In March, May and June, Samaritans carried out a baseline and two follow-up surveys of Samaritans volunteers who have completed shifts during lockdown. Collectively, these surveys gathered just over 4,600 responses. Samaritans also analysed service data for the 12 weeks of lockdown between 23rd March and 14 June 2020.
- Samaritans Media Guidelines on reporting suicide can be found here
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