Suicide prevention: interim report Contents

Introduction and summary

1.The scale of the avoidable loss of life from suicide is unacceptable. 4820 people are recorded as having died by suicide in England in 2015 but the true figure is likely to be higher.1 The 2014 suicide rate in England (10.3 deaths per 100,000) was the highest seen since 2004, and the 2015 rate was only marginally lower at 10.1.2 Suicide disproportionately affects men, accounting for around three quarters of all suicides, but rates are rising in women. It remains the biggest killer of men under 493 and the leading cause of death in people aged 15–24.4

Figure 1: Suicide rates in the UK 1981–2014

Graph showing suicide rates in the UK 1981-2014

Source: Office for National Statistics, 2016

2.Suicide is now the leading cause of death directly related to pregnancy in the year after mothers give birth—the latest Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths, published this month, reveals that between 2009 and 2014 111 women in the UK died by suicide during or up to a year after pregnancy.5 There are also rising levels of suicides in prisons and particular concerns about the risks following release from prison.6

3.Suicide is also a health inequality issue: there is a well-established link between suicide and poor economic circumstances.7 People in the lowest socio-economic groups living in the most deprived areas are ten times more at risk of suicide than those in the most affluent group in the least deprived areas.8 Yet the clear message we have heard throughout our inquiry is that suicide is preventable.

4.Our inquiry into suicide prevention received over 150 submissions.9 We heard oral evidence from a range of organisations and individuals10 including those bereaved by suicide or with lived experience of suicidal ideation, from whom we heard powerful evidence both about their experiences and about the work they are now doing to help prevent suicide.11 We also visited Liverpool to hear from representatives from the Cheshire and Merseyside Suicide Prevention Network and organisations seeking to improve mental health and wellbeing through sport and by reaching out to those in distress who would not otherwise contact services to seek help.12

5.The Government has indicated that a refresh of the suicide prevention strategy will be published in January 2017. We have heard striking and informative evidence which we hope the Government will take into account before drawing its final conclusions. As it is not possible for us to publish a full report in time for it to influence the Government’s refreshed strategy, we have decided to publish this interim report in order to set out the key messages we have heard from witnesses throughout our inquiry .

6.We will be producing a full report in due course following a session with witnesses to hear their views on the Government’s updated suicide prevention strategy, once it has been published.

7.In this report we outline five key areas for consideration by the Government before the refreshed strategy is finalised:

(1) Implementation—a clear implementation programme underpinned by external scrutiny is required.

(2) Services to support people who are vulnerable to suicide—this includes wider support for public mental health and wellbeing alongside the identification of and targeted support for at risk groups; early intervention services, access to help in non-clinical settings, and improvements in both primary and secondary care; and services for those bereaved by suicide.

(3) Consensus statement on sharing information with families—professionals need better training to ensure that opportunities to involve families or friends in a patient’s recovery are maximised, where appropriate.

(4) Data—timely and consistent data is needed to enable swift responses to suspected suicides and to identify possible clusters, in order to prevent further suicides.

(5) Media—media guidelines relating to the reporting of suicide are being widely ignored and greater attention must be paid to dealing with breaches by the media, at national and local level. Consideration should also be given to what changes should be made to restrict access to potentially harmful internet sites and content.

1 Office for National Statistics, Suicide in England and Wales, 2015 registrations

2 Ibid

4 Office for National Statistics, Death registrations summary tables, 2015

6 Howard League for Penal Reform and Centre for Mental Health, Preventing prison suicide, 2016

7 Samaritans (SPR0072)

8 Public Health England (SPR0120)

9 Health Committee, Suicide prevention, written evidence

10 Health Committee, Suicide prevention, oral evidence

11 Health Committee, Suicide prevention, oral evidence, Tuesday 8th November 2016

12 “Suicide prevention: Committee visits Liverpool and Salford”, Health Committee news release, 24 November 2016

15 December 2016