UK Suicide Rate At Record Low

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The national suicide rate is at its lowest ever level, Care Services Minister Ivan Lewis announced today following publication of the latest progress report from the National Institute for Mental Health in England. The report also expressed continued concern about the dangers of insensitive media reporting following events in Bridgend.

The 2007 Annual Report of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England highlights progress made over the last year:

* The overall suicide rate in England 3 year average was 8.3 deaths per 100,000 population compared with the previous 3 year average of 8.5

* There continues to be a sustained fall in the rate of suicides among young men aged 20-34, a drop of 7.50% between 2003-05 and 04-06

* There were 145 suicides among mental health in-patients in 2005 compared with 157 in 2004.

* There were 1277 suicides among people in contact with mental health services in 2005, compared to 1308 in 2004.

However it also showed that:

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* There were 82 self inflicted deaths in prisons in 2007/08 compared with 71 in 06/07.

* While much progress has been made in the reporting of suicide by the media, many journalists and editors remain unaware of either general or in-house reporting guidelines on suicide.

Care Services Minister Ivan Lewis said:

"The overall rate of suicide among the general population continues to fall and is now at a record low. The continued drop in suicides among young men and mental health in-patients is also encouraging, but we must do more to tackle the rise in prison suicides and promote sensitive media reporting of suicides.

"We've already published 'Sensitive Coverage Saves Lives' to help improve media portrayal of suicide and suicidal behaviour. Now we will work with SHIFT to raise awareness of this guidance and ensure that in future, journalists cover suicides in a more sensitive and thoughtful way."

The report highlights some of the innovative work being done or planned across the regions in 2008 to help tackle suicide.

In Yorkshire and the Humber and the North East, several workshops have been held with more planned to teach 'ASSIST' techniques, a community first aid approach where participants are trained to use a structured conversation and risk assessment to keep someone at risk of suicide safe until other resources are available. The local Regional Medicines Management Committee has also agreed to introduce an information campaign highlighting the dangers of paracetamol and 'dump' campaigns to ensure the safe return of unwanted medication.

The South West has been working to identify suicide 'hotspots' and taking preventative action accordingly, such as erecting physical barriers at well known 'jump points' and establishing dedicated 'suicide patrols' of volunteers or paid counsellors to patrol hotspot areas.

The East Midlands has worked with Indigo Brave Theatre Group in Nottingham to write and produce a theatre piece called 'Strange Acts' surrounding the theme of self harm. The play will be used in a variety of health promotion events and workshops.

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