Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.
World Suicide Prevention Day is hosted by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), and is observed every year in order to deliver a worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides. This year’s focus is ‘creating hope through action’.
Suicide is devastating and has a catastrophic impact on those left behind. It was reported in 2019 that one in every 100 deaths worldwide is the result of suicide. Here in the UK, the latest statistics from Samaritans report that there were 6,859 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland in 2018. The highest suicide rate in the UK, and England, was among men aged 45-49. Men are around three times more likely to take their own lives than women in the UK, and middle aged men are at greatest risk of suicide overall.
Now, perhaps more than ever, people are more aware of mental illness and the stigma surrounding mental illness is improving. However, mental illness remains a huge issue and sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to increased feelings of isolation and vulnerability for some people.
It doesn’t help then that in the UK, mental health services are extremely underfunded and under-resourced.
Freedom of Information requests made by Mind to mental health trusts revealed that:
- Services are understaffed: four in ten mental health trusts (41%) have staffing levels well below established benchmarks
- People are not getting the help they need: there is huge variation in the numbers of people accessing crisis care services and one in five people (18%) who came into contact with NHS services in crisis were not assessed at all
- People aren’t assessed quickly enough: only a third (33%) of respondents who came into contact with NHS services when in crisis were assessed within four hours, as recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
- Services are not available all the time: one in ten crisis teams still fail to operate a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service, despite recommendations by NICE
- People cannot contact crisis teams directly: just over half (56%) of crisis teams accept self-referrals from known service users and just one in five (21%) are from service users that aren’t already known to them. This is despite NICE guidance that crisis teams should offer self-referral as an alternative to emergency services
- There is a lack of respect and dignity: less than a third (29%) said they felt all staff treated them with respect and dignity
These statistics show that the reality is that the services available are unable to support the people that need them most, at the time they need them most.
As clinical negligence solicitors, we represent clients who have tragically lost loved ones to suicide. We see first-hand the devastating effect suicide has on people. By raising awareness, reducing the stigma and encouraging well-informed action, we can hope to reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts. However, it is vital that the UK government urgently prioritises mental health funding to avoid further preventable suicide.