14:46 GMT09 April 2020
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    The number of people taking their lives in the UK has reached an "unacceptable" level, with suicide being the biggest killer of men under 49 and the leading cause of death in people aged 15-24.

    Officially, the report notes, 4,820 people committed suicide in England last year, out of a nationwide total of 6,188 — but the committee believes the true figure is likely to be higher.

    In 2014, England's suicide rate (10.3 deaths per 100,000) reached its highest level in a decade, and the 2015 rate was only marginally lower at 10.1.

    Suicide disproportionately affects men in England, with males accounting for around three quarters of all suicides. But rates are rising in women, with suicide now being the leading cause of death directly related to pregnancy in the year after mothers give birth.

    There are also rising levels of suicides in prisons and particular concerns about the risks following release from prison.

    The report notes suicide has become an issue of socioeconomic inequality, with a clear connection between suicide and poor economic circumstances. People in the lowest socioeconomic 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.

    Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of The Samaritans, told Sputnik there needs to be big changes in the way the UK talks about and deals with suicide.

    "There have been 14,400 suicides since the government's suicide prevention strategy was implemented in 2012. There needs to be greater leadership on this at both a national and local level. This is a public health issue of epic proportions, and it's everybody's business. We're contacted 5.4 million times a year at the moment — a contact every six seconds — from people in distress. At last the government seems to be waking up and hopefully something will now happen," Ruth Sutherland told Sputnik.

    Committee chair Dr. Sarah Wollaston MP, said the clear message the inquiry had heard throughout its investigation was that suicide was entirely preventable.

    "Approximately one third of people who end their lives by suicide have not been in contact with health services in the year before their death. This is not because they were 'unreachable' — on the contrary, we should regard all suicides as preventable. In Liverpool we met a bereaved mother who said, 'my son wasn't hard to reach, it was the services that were hard to reach.' If such a high proportion of people in need of help are not accessing current services, then we must adapt the services we offer," Dr. Wollaston said in a statement.

    The group of MPs also slammed "irresponsible" media reporting of suicide, which can produce "copycat behavior." Lurid descriptions of unique or emerging suicide methods can lead to more people choosing to take their lives using these methods. The inquiry identified several instances of inappropriate reporting and suicide portrayal, all by leading broadcasters and mainstream newspapers.

    Another key concern in respect of the media was use of the terms "commit" and "committed," which reinforces "stigmatizing" attitudes from a time when suicide was a criminal offense. When the committee questioned Public Health England, the body responded that they did not believe they were responsible for taking action to counter irresponsible reporting, nor could they identify which organization's responsibility it was.

    The report concludes the UK Government's 2012 suicide prevention strategy has been characterized by "inadequate leadership, poor accountability, and insufficient action," and there has been a failure to translate the strategy into actual improvements.

    The committee calls on the government to radically update the strategy, ahead of its scheduled revision in January 2017.


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