`Living miserably' targeted by anti-suicide campaign

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The Independent Online
Suicide attempts among young men have doubled in a decade, and the Government is aiming to stem the rising tide. Glenda Cooper, Social Affairs Correspondent, looks at yesterday's launch of the Campaign Against Living Miserably.

Last year 280 young men aged between 15 and 24 took their own lives - a death toll second only to road accidents. It is a rate that has doubled in the past decade. Compared to suicide, 84 died as a result of using drugs,10 men in that age group died from heart disease and five men from Aids.

Suicide is three times as common in men as it is in women. A suicide attempt increases someone's chance of eventually dying by suicide by 100 times, according to an earlier report by the Samaritans. Factors associated with youth suicide include drugs and alcohol - with about one in three adolescent suicides intoxicated at the time of death, and a further number under the influence of drugs.

Yesterday, the Government launched a free and confidential helpline to try to stop the increasing numbers of young men who kill themselves. It will give advice, referrals and counselling to depressed callers and will also aim to raise awareness of the problem and break down the stigma surrounding mental illness and depression.

The helpline was launched in Manchester, which has twice the national rate of suicide, the worst record of panic attacks in the world and a formula assessing mental health-needs showed that Manchester ranked first overall in the UK.

The Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm) helpline will be operated by Network Scotland, and calls will be answered by a team of counsellors and youth workers experienced in dealing with problems faced by young people.

An advertising campaign devised by the agency Ogilvy & Mather will run in pubs, clubs and men's magazines and is sponsored by local restaurants, record shops and nightclubs such as Factory Records Limited, Galaxy 102, Levi's, and the Manchester Bus Company

Launching the campaign, Paul Boateng, the health minister, said: "It is a tragedy that young people, who should have so much hope, suffer such despair. We are wasting our young people in every sense of the word. Problems are understandable: studying, finding work and coping with life are all tough to deal with, but what everyone should remember is that there is never no one to talk to, death is not the solution."

"We all need to look out for people around us who may need support and advice. The message is `look out for your mates'."

Despite the increase in suicides by young men, the British "stiff upper- lip" is still there, apparently, with more than a third of under-25s thinking that depressed people should simply pull themselves together. Yet a recent study by the Samaritans found that 29 per cent of the 500 young people they interviewed knew someone who had died by suicide, of which 16 per cent had lost a friend or family member.

The helpline number, open from 5pm to 9am seven days a week, is 0800 585858.