suicideThe number of people taking their own life rose to 6,188 in 2015, according to new figures, leading to calls for a major overhaul of mental health services to focus on prevention to help address this.

Deaths from suicide in the UK rose slightly from 6,122 deaths in 2014 to 6,188 deaths in 2015 with a subsequent increase in the rate from 10.8 to 10.9 deaths per 100,000 population, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The UK male suicide rate decreased while the female rate increased to its highest rate in a decade. However, overall the suicide rate for males was about 3 times higher than females.

England and Scotland saw a decrease in the total number of suicides, while Wales and Northern Ireland saw increases. Of the English regions, Yorkshire and The Humber had the highest suicide rate at 11.6 deaths per 100,000 population and the East of England had the lowest at 9.3 deaths per 100,000.

"While the increase in the suicide rate this year is a result of an increase in female suicides, males still account for three quarters of all suicides,” said Jodie Withers, health analysis and life events, ONS. “There has also been a continued increase in suicides for males under the age of 30, however, these remain lower than the peak seen in the late 1990's and remains significantly lower than the suicide rate for middle-aged males despite falls in recent years." 

But the increase shows that mental health services need to focus more on prevention, according to Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board: “Every suicide tells a different but equally tragic story,” she said. “The fact there have been more than 6,000 suicides in the previous year shows the need for suicide to be recognised as a major national public health concern.

“The rise in suicide rates highlights the urgency for a root and branch overhaul of mental health services that focuses on prevention.

“Councils commission mental health services alongside the NHS and there are opportunities for both to work closely together to achieve the improvements needed.

“It is vital that these are identified and addressed without delay and that the system is joined-up to help tackle the challenges faced each day by anyone experiencing the devastating mental health issues that leads a person to take their own life.

“Suicide is preventable and we must all work together to develop community based suicide prevention plans that reach out to every part of England.”

John Campbell, Turning Point’s managing director for mental health said: “These stats… show that there is cause for concern amongst people experiencing mental health issues. Although there was only a small rise in the number of suicides between 2014 and 2015, it is still a tragedy that the numbers are not decreasing.

“With the numbers rising, it is evident that more and more people feel like they have nowhere to turn. Whilst rates of suicide are higher amongst men, the ONS figures show that female suicide rates have risen to their highest in a decade. We need to acknowledge this trend by reflecting this in the conversations we have and the support we provide.”

Campbell added that a large proportion of people who take their own life have had no contact with mental health services, even after an attempted suicide. “For example, recent research by the Education Policy Institute’s Independent Commission on Children and Young People’s Mental Health showed that 66.9% of people aged 16 – 34 who had attempted suicide subsequently received no mental health or psychological support. 

"Frontline mental health spending is being cut, leaving people with even fewer options for accessing support. We want the Government to make real it’s commitment to invest more in mental health services so that we can extend access and reach out to those in need to avoid people going into crisis in the first place.”