Call for Government workplan to tackle rising suicide rates in Yorkshire

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A comprehensive Government workplan is needed to support men most at risk of suicide, the Samaritans has warned, amid rising rates in Yorkshire at a level not seen since records began.

Last year saw a 25 per cent increase in the number of suicides in the region, with a 51 per cent increase in people taking their own lives since lowest levels were recorded in 2010.

The Samaritans has called for a comprehensive Government workplan to support men most at risk of suicide. PA Images.

The Samaritans has called for a comprehensive Government workplan to support men most at risk of suicide. PA Images.

Significant strides are being made, with a bereavement service launched across West Yorkshire and Harrogate as authorities aim to reduce suicides by up to 75 per cent in some areas.

But while most councils across the country have set up similar prevention plans, the Samaritans warns, it fears many more may be struggling to deliver them because of a stretched resource.

“Councils must be funded to effectively implement their suicide prevention plans and provide services that address risk factors for suicide, such as substance misuse and debt,” warns charity policy manager Joe Potter.

A report by the Samaritans, published with the University of Exeter earlier this year, found that while almost all local authorities planned to reduce risk in men and improve bereavement support, one in five were not putting this into practice.

“Men, and particularly middle-aged men in disadvantaged communities, have consistently remained the highest risk group for suicide in the UK,” said Mr Potter.

“This is why Samaritans is calling for a comprehensive, cross-departmental Government workplan that prioritises clear actions on how to reach them.

“We want men to get support before they reach a crisis so we need to design services that we know appeals to men.”

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Government figures, covering 2018, show a “significant” increase in suicides in Yorkshire, with both Scarborough and Harrogate highlighted as having a higher that average rate. Early provisional data for this year suggests a further rise, with suicide rates in Yorkshire reaching the highest level in the country in the three months to September.

While the reasoning behind this is complex, the Samaritans has said, men are three times more likely than women to take their own lives. It is working with groups of men who have struggled to cope, as it aims to build a better understanding of how to reach those at risk.

“We are working closely with local governments to better understand the risk factors in their area and how tailored suicide prevention plans can be delivered effectively on a regional scale,” said Mr Potter.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Every suicide is a tragedy and we are working urgently with partners across government, businesses and communities to tackle its root causes.

All councils have a suicide prevention plan in place, backed by £57m investment through the NHS Long Term Plan, and we are working closely with them to ensure they are effective.”

“In October we announced the roll-out of tailored suicide bereavement support services across 10 regions nationwide – including West Yorkshire and Harrogate, who received a £173,00 investment – to increase support for those bereaved by suicide.”

The bereavement service launched in West Yorkshire and Harrogate is aimed at helping those affected by suicide loss.

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People bereaved by suicide are more likely to suffer from severe depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, project leaders say, or even adopt suicidal behaviours themselves.

The West Yorkshire and Harrogate Suicide Bereavement Service, working towards reducing suicide by 10 per cent across Yorkshire and by 75 per cent in some areas, will provide support through one to one peer support, peer support groups and advocacy.

“As someone personally affected by suicide, I understand the impact it can have on individuals, families and other people too,” said Rob Webster, chief executive lead for West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership.

“This service will provide essential help to those facing one of the hardest issues to face.”

The service will see practical support, signposting to counselling or financial advice, as well as workshops, and is open to those recently or more historically bereaved.

This will sit alongside support with coroners, signposting, peer-led groups and memorial events, as well as training for employers on how to support their workforce.

Suicide prevention plans are in place for every local authority, the DHSC added, with Government investment of almost £600,000 this year to support councils to further improve their plans.

The Samaritans can be contacted free at any time of day or night, call 116123 or email or click here to visit the website