Samaritans welcomes lowest male suicide rate in the UK for thirty years

Figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that male suicide is at its lowest in more than thirty years.* The total number of both male and female suicides in 2017 was 5,821 compared with 5,965 in 2016, a fall of 144 or just over 2.4%.

The 2017 suicide rate for males in the UK was 15.5 per 100,000, representing 4,382 suicides. This is the lowest rate since 1981. However, males are still three times more likely to die by suicide than females.

There were 1,439 female suicides in 2017, with the rate remaining stable at 4.9 per 100,000.

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland said: “Suicide is not inevitable, it is preventable. And when someone takes their own life the result is absolute devastation for those left behind.

“It’s encouraging to see the reduction in male suicide. We believe that the focus of suicide prevention in recent years to tackle the higher rates in men has contributed to this. 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.

“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.

“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.

“More up to date data and research would also help us understand why suicide in young people appears to have increased in recent years. ONS statistics show that suicide rates in 15-19 year olds in the UK have fluctuated over the past few years and we need to monitor this closely to learn more about how we can prevent that from becoming a longer term trend.

“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.”

“Suicide prevention is everybody’s business, which is why we are currently working to ensure that every area has an effective Local Suicide Prevention Plan through our Local Action Saves Lives campaign. We also have a programme of work in education to support schools and others to understand suicide risk and how to reduce it.”

Read more about what data can tell us about suicide risk and prevention: https://www.samaritans.org/news/suicide-whats-happening-uk-and-what-does-mean-suicide-prevention

For more information and interviews, please contact press@samaritans.org or 020 8394 8396/07943 809162 (out of hours).

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Notes to editors:

*Source: Office of National Statistics – Suicides in the United Kingdom: 2017 Registrations

  • You can call Samaritans for free any time from any phone on 116 123 (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of your nearest branch.
  • Samaritans responds to more than 5 million calls for help every year.
  • Samaritans’ Guidelines on reporting suicide can be found here.
  • Samaritans’ Local Action Saves Lives  aims to encourage local authorities to implement effective suicide prevention campaigns and asks people to contact their local politicians to ask them to raise the issue in parliament.