Suicide in the United Kingdom
Suicide is a significant national social issue in the United Kingdom. In 2017 there were approximately 5,821 registered deaths by suicide in the United Kingdom, equating to an average of 16 suicides per day in the country. Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the country.
Governmental and other organisations have created different initiatives to attempt to prevent suicides in the country, including the establishment of a new post, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Mental Health, Inequalities and Suicide Prevention), in October 2018. Jackie Doyle-Price was appointed on World Mental Health Day.
Researchers and sociologists have identified several causes for the high rate of suicide in the United Kingdom; these include recent recessions, unemployment, austerity measures and loneliness. Research undertaken by Samaritans agree that socio-economic status tends to be the main cause as it is for other groups. For present day middle-aged men this is exacerbated by the more toxic elements of masculinity and also by being part of the generation caught between the austere view of masculinity of their fathers and the more progressive views of their sons. Relationship breakdown is yet another factor as they are often relying on a female partner for emotional support and are more likely to have access to their children restricted.
The most common method used in the United Kingdom is hanging. Other suicides reported often include self-poisoning. Suicide using firearms accounts for only a very small fraction, possibly due to tight gun control meaning very few households in the UK possess them (4 per cent). Hanging is the most common method used by women, closely followed by self poisoning.
Inhalation of domestic gas was the most common method of suicide during the mid-twentieth century. It was completely eliminated by the 1990s as a result of the replacement of coal gas containing toxic carbon monoxide by the non-poisonous natural gas. Later, suicide by inhalation of carbon monoxide from car exhausts became common, but has declined since the introduction of catalytic converters.
Age-standardised rates generally fell between 1981 and 2007, with rates in subsequent years increasing to reach a peak of 11.1 deaths per 100,000 in 2013, though this was still substantially less than the rates seen in the 1980s and 1990s. The highest rate of suicide was recorded as 21.4 deaths per 100,000 population in 1988. Male suicides have consistently accounted for approximately three-quarters of all suicides in the UK since the mid-1990s.
5,821 people aged 10 and over died by suicide in 2017, a decrease from 5,965 deaths in 2016. In January 2013, MPs expressed concern at a rise in the number of suicides over the preceding years.
The suicide rate of 10.1 deaths per 100,000 population recorded by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2017 is the lowest since the organisation began recording data on suicide in the United Kingdom in 1981. In 1981 the ONS recorded the UK suicide rate as 14.7 deaths per 100,000.
|By sex; United Kingdom (1981–2017), rate per 100,000 people|
|Source: Office for National Statistics, National Records of Scotland, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency |
|Age standardised suicide rate|
|By gender and age group, United Kingdom (1981–2017), rate per 100,000 people|
|Males aged||Females aged|
|Source: Office for National Statistics, National Records of Scotland, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency|
The UK is home to Samaritans, one of the first charities focused on suicide prevention. Anyone can call the Samaritans free of charge at any time.
The government of the United Kingdom and a number of international and national organizations have undertaken a variety of efforts and initiatives to prevent suicides. There are different associations that provide help and suggestions to suicidal people. Some notable organisations include Papyrus (a suicide prevention group founded in 1997 by Jean Kerr – who lost her son to suicide), Maytree (a sanctuary for the suicidal), and U can cope.
In 2012, the United Kingdom government decided to spend £1.5 million to develop planning and strategies on preventing suicides. In January 2013, the social networking site Facebook started a partnership with suicide-prevention organisation "Save.org" to provide data that will be used to identify warning signs of people at risk of suicide.
There have been calls in the UK to change the language used around the topic of suicide, particularly the use of the phrase "commit suicide". The phrase is seen by some as wrongly suggesting suicide is a criminal act, thereby enforcing a notion of legal wrongdoing in the same way as "committing rape" or "committing murder". Suicide has not been illegal in England and Wales since the Suicide Act 1961, and has never been illegal in Scotland.
The mainstream UK media currently observes the practice of avoiding the phrase "commit suicide" in line with the media reporting guidelines published by suicide prevention charity Samaritans, who refer to it as "inappropriate language".
On 10 September 2018 (World Suicide Prevention Day) more than 130 British celebrities and campaigners called for an end to the phrase "commit suicide", instead preferring the term "die by suicide". The letter was backed by Samaritans, mental health charity Mind, Members of Parliament from all political parties, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, June Sarpong, Stephen Fry, Zoe Ball and others.
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