Why does an affluent city like York have such a high suicide rate?

ONE OF the region's most affluent and sought-after cities has among the highest suicide rates in the country, shocking new figures show.

Picture posed by model

The number of suicides in York is above both the national and regional average and in 2013-15 the popular city also had the highest suicide rate when compared to other similar local authority areas. These figures include up to five deaths at York University alone in one year.

They have been revealed 
after a report into 60 suicides in the city between 2010 and 2014 to enable better understanding of the pattern of deaths in the city.

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The main causes identified were multiple life-stresses such as bereavement, unwanted estrangement from family or children, unmanageable debt, business failure or workplace stress and undiagnosed mental ill-health,

Andy Chapman, suicide prevention lead, said there were some links to the recession, but the deaths were linked to loss generally such as loss of face, status, income, relationships or feeling of worth. More than 80 per cent of the cases examined were male and some, but not all, had had contact with support services.

The report says: “All causes of avoidable, premature death are deserving of attention and resources to prevent unnecessary loss of life.

“When the number of ‘years of life lost’ is considered rather than simply the number of lives lost, the impact of suicide is particularly poignant.

“Average life expectancy in York is currently 80.1 years for men and 83.5 years for women.

“The average age of the York audit cohort was 42.4 for men and 47.8 for women. A calculation based on these figures shows that those sixty people taken together were deprived of 2,249 ‘years of lost life’, around 37 years per person, as a result of suicide.”

There has been an increasing trend towards suicides in York the last 10 years with sharp peaks in some years such as 2008, 2013 and 2015.

The rate for 2013-2015 was 14 suicides per 100,000 of population – significantly higher than the national and regional rates of 10.1 and 10.7 per 100,000, respectively.

The report includes the story of Brian, who was in his late 40s and had recently been through an acrimonious divorce, the settlement of which had left him with significant debts.

He struggled with depression which he attributed to his marriage break-down and long-term worsening arthritis, but he had not discussed his mental health with his doctor.

He had not previously self-harmed and did not drink alcohol to excess.

Yesterday, York’s health and wellbeing board discussed recommendations put forward to improve suicide prevention work.

Regular audits of the numbers of suicides will be carried out and work has started on an action plan specifically for York which includes the student population.

There are also plans to raise awareness about the groups most at risk and to assess risk of suicide for people being supported by services.

A statement from York University said it had completed a thorough review of mental health support in light of increased demand from students and pledged to invest a further £500,000 in mental health care provision. There will also be increased training for staff, enhanced online support and promotion of student wellbeing.

For help phone the Samaritans’ 24-hour helpline on 116 123.