Male suicide rates are at their lowest in the UK for more than 30 years, official figures show, but charities have warned against complacency.
Men are still three times more likely to take their own lives than women, according to data released by the Office for National Statistics.
A total of 5,821 suicides were registered last year in the UK, the Office for National Statistics said, down from 5,965 in 2016.
The figures show that in 2017, there were 4,383 male suicides and the rate was 15.5 per 100,000 men, which is down from 20 in the late 1980s.
Among women, the rate has remained at around five per 100,000 for almost 15 years.
Elizabeth Scowcroft, senior research and evidence manager at the Samaritans, the UK’s leading suicide prevention charity, told HuffPost UK that the news was encouraging but said there is still a long way to go.
She said: “It’s really encouraging because we have been focusing our suicide prevention work at men for quite some time now, along with other organisations, agencies and the government.
“Everybody has been focusing on encouraging men to seek help more, and reducing the stigma on men seeking help, and obviously that reduction in suicide rates makes it appear that work is having a really positive impact. So that’s encouraging.
“But of course men are still much more likely to take their own lives than females and we mustn’t be complacent at the reduction in suicide rates.
“We should still focus our efforts towards men and keep encouraging them to seek help and reach out when they are struggling to cope. We can’t say ‘well that’s our job done’ because it’s certainly not.
“They are still much more at risk of suicide. It is a really positive thing but we need to keep going and keep pushing to make sure that rate comes down even more.”
The fall is driven by a drop in suicides among men in their thirties and forties, the data shows. The suicide rate among men in their early thirties has fallen from 19.1 per 100,000 to 17.7.
An area of concern for the Samaritans is young men, however. “You’re not seeing the same decrease in younger men and over the past few years that has fluctuated particularly in that 15-19 year group, and it’s looking like there might be an early indication of an increase in that group,” Scowcroft said.
“It’s too early to tell but there is definitely something different going on with that age group and we need to pay attention to that and monitor what’s happening for them. We need to really understand the reasons why young men take their own lives and maybe that’s different from other groups of men.
“Suicide is so complex and there is never just one reason and we need to really understand the differences between different groups of people including those in different regions.”
The 2017 data shows that in England the region with the highest suicide rate was the North East, and the region with the lowest rate was London.
In the UK, Scotland continues to have the highest suicide rate of 13.9 per 100,000 population, which is significantly higher than England, which is 9.2, and Wales, which is around 12. The figures for Northern Ireland will not be released until later in the year.
But Scotland did record the lowest suicide rate since 1981, and it has also seen one of the largest decreases in the male suicide rate.
Simon Gunning, chief executive of the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), echoed her comments, saying there is “still a lot of work to do”.
“Today we take encouragement from the reported decrease in the rate of male suicide but, while we are starting to see genuine reduction, the shocking facts are still present and it is acutely apparent that we as a society have a lot of work to do,” he said.
Pointing out that suicide among males is much more common, adding that thousands of people are “still reaching a point where they feel dying is their only option”.
Gunning said that the charity will continue its movement against suicide and is campaigning for ministerial responsibility for suicide prevention and specific bereavement support.
He said: “Suicide is an issue that affects everyone and together we can build on the positive change we’re seeing to make a tangible, societal difference that will save and change lives.”
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org