Skip to main content

Providing a lifeline: effective scrutiny of local strategies to prevent or reduce suicide

Any suicide is a tragedy – not only does it represent a life lost, it has a profound impact on the lives of family and friends who themselves may subsequently need support from statutory health and care services or voluntary and community sector organisations. For every death, another 6 to 60 people are thought to be affected directly. Given this scale of human impact, it is not surprising that the economic cost is estimated to be so high. For every suicide nearly £1.7 million is lost in things like productivity and caring for those left behind. Yet suicide can be prevented.

Councils have been active on suicide prevention work in recent years. Councils can help to prevent suicide through their public health role to address many of the risk factors, for example alcohol and drug misuse. They can also address the wider determinants of health such as employment and housing. There are also important and varied opportunities to reach local people who are not in contact with health services, for example through on-line initiatives or working with the third sector.

Office for National Statistics figures for 2016 (illustrated below) show a 6% fall in the suicide rate in England, 245 fewer deaths, linked to suicide prevention work. The male suicide rate has fallen for three consecutive years and the recent rise in female rate has reversed. However, there were still 4,575 deaths in England, 1 every 90 minutes.