normanlambA government report has highlighted the value of sharing information between organisations and families to help prevent suicides, as new statistics revealed a small rise in the number of people who took their own life in 2012.

The report, Preventing Suicide in England: One year On, outlines an agreement between government and health and care professionals that is designed to promote greater sharing of information with health professionals and family or friends, within the context of the law.

This follows concerns raised by families that doctors and other health professionals seem reluctant to take information from them and have not communicated information about a patient’s suicide risk to their family. 

As a result of the joint statement healthcare professional will be better able to listen to the views of family members and friends, who may offer insight into a loved ones’ state of mind which can help with care or treatment. 

The report also sets out key actions that local areas can take to prevent suicides, including importance of responsive and high quality care for people who self-harm and psychological assessments for those having suicidal thoughts, which can help to prevent future suicidal behaviours.

Small rise in suicides

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that there were 4,534 suicides in 2012 an increase of 6 on the previous year. Suicides in England have been increasing ever since 2007, although are still below levels seen in 2000.

The statistics also revealed that 77% of those who take their own lives are adult men, with the peak age being 40-49.

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said: “We have heard from families bereaved by suicide that they feel there is sometimes more they felt they could do. Health professionals can be understandably worried about whether to share information – this will make sure they can be confident listening and talking to families to make sure patients get the right support.

“We want to reduce suicides by ensuring those most at risk are better supported.”

Look out for signs

The increase in suicides is a cause for concern for mental health charity Mind. Sam Challis, information manager at Mind, said: “Yet again the figures indicate that many middle aged men in particular are taking their own lives. Whilst there is lots of good work within suicide prevention, we urgently need to see more initiatives aimed at this demographic in particular, to increase resilience and build better social networks. 

“Shockingly men account for 77% of suicides and research by Mind has found that men are much less likely to seek help for a mental health problem than women. We urge family and friends to look out for signs and encourage people to go to see health professionals as soon as possible, before things spiral into crisis. Clinicians should also be taking into account the concerns raised by family and friends if they fear someone is at risk of taking their own lives, whilst also respecting confidentiality. We welcome the key actions around this in the suicide prevention strategy. 

“It’s alarming to see suicide rates among those in touch with mental health services is on the rise. We know that crisis services are stretched, so people may not be getting the support they need. Individuals would benefit from closer monitoring, better quality and more joined up services.”