The number of people taking their own life in Britain increased “significantly” in 2011, official figures revealed today, as the male suicide rate hit its highest level in nearly a decade.
A total of 6,045 suicides were recorded among people aged 15 and over, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, up 437 or 8% on the previous year.
The number of male suicides increased 8% to 4,552, which at a rate of 18.2 per 100,000 was the highest level since 2002. Female suicides also rose 8% to 1,493 or a rate of 5.6 per 100,000.
Last year, the Government announced a further £1.5 million in funding for research into suicide prevention among those most at risk of taking their own lives.
The pledge came as ministers unveiled a new suicide prevention strategy which aims to cut the suicide rate and provide more support to bereaved families.
The overall suicide rate in the UK increased from 11.1 to 11.8 per 100,000, the ONS said, while the highest suicide rate was among men aged 30 to 44 at 23.5 deaths per 100,000.
Among women, the highest rate of suicide was among 45 to 59-year-olds at 7.3 per 100,000.
In 2011, additional guidance was given to improve the classification of narrative verdicts at inquests in England and Wales.
A narrative verdict is a long-form, factual record of how and in what circumstances a death occurred and is used as an alternative to short-form verdicts such as suicide.
There had been concerns among researchers that these classification rules forced the ONS to record probable suicides as accidents.
So in 2011, the ONS identified common phrases used by coroners to terms allowed for the classification of intentional self-harm.
This additional guidance could have resulted in an increased number of narrative verdicts coded as intentional self-harm in 2011, the ONS said, which in turn could have contributed to the increase in the suicide rate.
Care services minister Norman Lamb said: "Losing a loved one to suicide is a tragedy. Even one life taken by suicide is one too many.
"The rise in the numbers of people committing suicide causes very real concern. We need to tackle this head on.
We published a refreshed Suicide Prevention Strategy last year precisely because we take it seriously. The strategy targets those most at risk by providing the right interventions at the right time.
"We also need to make sure information about treatment and support is available to those who need them, including those who are suffering from bereavement following a suicide.
"Giving greater priority to mental health services, and to improving access, are also critical. The Government has made its intent on this very clear through the first NHS Mandate."
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