Suicide rates fall to six-year low

Figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the suicide rate in Great Britain has fallen by 4.7 per cent in the last year.

Deaths by suicide in Great Britain as a whole were down on 2015, falling from 5,870 to 5,668 in 12 months. It is the lowest rate of suicide since 2011.

The ONS said the fall in suicides is likely to be due to prevention work by the government, the NHS, charities including Samaritans and the British Transport Police.

There has been a drop of 9.4 per cent in the rate of women taking their own lives in 2016. In 2015 female suicide hit a ten-year high. In 2016 1,381 suicides by women were registered, compared with 1,493 in 2015.

The number of men dying by suicide in Great Britain in 2016 was 4,287; a rate of 15.7 per 100,000, down by three per cent on 2015. Men are still more than three times more likely to take their own lives than women. Middle-aged men are still at greatest risk.

Relationship breakdown can contribute to suicide risk and the highest risk is among divorced men, who in 2015 were almost three times more likely to end their lives than men who were married or in a civil partnership, says the ONS.

Deprivation also raises the risk of suicide, again particularly for men. Samaritans report Dying From Inequality, released earlier this year, highlights the danger deprivation can pose; making men from the most disadvantaged backgrounds ten times more likely to die in this way than those in more affluent areas.

This year the ONS has been working in partnership with Samaritans to tell the human story behind the suicide stats. Kristian, who called Samaritans when he felt lonely, isolated and desperate after a suicide attempt, said:

“It probably saved my life.

“He got me to talk to him about what was on my mind and he listened, I felt as if he cared about me. Some of the things he said made me see things from a different perspective.

“I often think back to that conversation and how it helped me – I only called once but it was invaluable.”

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland said: “Even though a fall in suicides compared with the previous year is welcome, 5,668 people dying in Great Britain in one year is still too high. Samaritans is working hard with partners, including the NHS, other charities and local authorities, to bring these figures down further.

“Every suicide is a tragedy leaving devastation in its wake. These figures emphasise the urgency with which we as a society need to work together to prevent needless loss of life.

“Suicide is everybody’s business, which is why we are currently campaigning to ensure that every area has an effective Local Suicide Prevention Plan. Suicide is not inevitable, it’s preventable and politicians, employers, health bodies and educators all have a role in identifying and supporting those most at risk. With better awareness and education on suicide prevention, as well as better planning, we will save lives.”

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

Notes to editors:

  • 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 5.6 million calls for help every year.
  • *Source: Office of National Statistics – Suicides in the United Kingdom: 2016 Registrations
  • Samaritans’ Guidelines on reporting suicide can be found here.
  • Reports: Dying From Inequality and Men and Suicide.