Fears Northumberland suicide rate will rise post-pandemic

New figures reveal how many Northumberland residents have lost their lives to suicide – as campaigners call for the government to bolster prevention services across the county following the coronavirus pandemic.

Thursday, 9th September 2021, 4:32 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th September 2021, 4:34 pm
The suicide rate is higher in Northumberland than England as a whole.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows 93 people were registered as having died by suicide in Northumberland between 2018 and 2020 – the latest available data.

It means the suicide rate in the area was 11.7 per 100,000 people over the period.

That was down from 12.8 between 2017 and 2019, but higher than the average rate across England and Wales of 10.5 deaths per 100,000 people.

Separate figures show the number of suicide deaths registered across the two nations fell by 8.2% from 5,691 in 2019 to 5,224 in 2020 – though the ONS warned the decrease may have been caused by several factors including a delay in registrations during the pandemic.

Samaritans is urging the government to account for the “strong connection” between economic deprivation and suicide into its post-pandemic economic recovery plans.

Jacqui Morrissey, assistant director of research and influencing at Samaritans, said: “Any life lost to suicide is a tragedy and we know that the after-effects of the extraordinary last 18 months will continue to impact people’s lives in the years to come.

“Funding should be made available in the forthcoming spending review for targeted investment in local areas to further develop and deliver practical support services to prevent suicide among groups at the highest risk, particularly middle-aged men.”

Liz Morgan, director of public health at Northumberland County Council, said: “Every suicide is a tragedy that can affect a wide network of individuals and it has significant and long-lasting effects on the people left behind.

“Suicides are preventable with timely, evidence-based and often low-cost interventions. We are working together with partners to do all we can to prevent suicide and improve support for those affected.”

Councillor Catherine Seymour, Northumberland County Council’s mental health champion, said: "Suicide has a devastating effect on families, friends and communities. We need to raise awareness of mental health, so people are encouraged to talk about how they are feeling.

“No matter how big or small, our actions can provide hope to those who are struggling. If anyone is feeling overwhelmed, I would encourage them to please reach out to someone.”

Brian Dow, deputy CEO of charity Rethink Mental Illness and co-chairman of the National Suicide Prevention Alliance, said the pandemic had led to an increase in risk factors for suicide, including debt, housing instability and access to care.

He added: “Reform and investment in health, social care and our benefits system, which provide vital support to so many, is critical."

The Local Government Association said suicide prevention was a public health priority and every council had a suicide prevention plan in place.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman said its mental health recovery action plan targets those most affected by the pandemic.

She added: "The last 18 months have been exceptionally difficult, and we are committed to doing everything possible to reduce suicides and support people’s mental wellbeing."

Contact Samaritans for free at any time on 116 123, or visit www.samaritans.org