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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 April 2006, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Suicide rate falls to record low
Man at window
Young men are a high-risk group for suicide
The suicide rate in England is at a record low, official figures reveal.

The government-backed report shows there were 8.5 deaths per 100,000 people in the population over the period 2002 to 2004.

There has also been a steady fall in the number of young men committing suicide for the first time in 25 years.

The government published its National Suicide Strategy in 2002, pledging to cut suicide rates by a fifth by 2010 - to just over seven deaths per 100,000.

We believe that lives are still being wasted and much heartache being caused to families because there is no effective response when people reach out for help
Marjorie Wallace, Sane

The annual report was jointly produced by the Department of Health and the National Institute for Mental Health in England.

It shows the suicide rate is at its lowest since some form of record-keeping began in 1910.

The report found that the latest figures are down by 6.6% since the period 1995 to 1997 when there were 9.2 deaths per 100,000.

Falls have also been seen in suicides among prisoners and mental health in-patients.

Painkiller withdrawal

The report said there were several initiatives which had helped cut suicides including three schemes in Camden, Manchester and Bedfordshire aimed at young men.

Suicide is the most common cause of death in men under 35 years old.

Research has also been carried out to look at the risk of self harm incidence and into suicide risks amongst lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and in ethnic minority groups

The withdrawal of the commonly prescribed painkiller co-proxamol, which was linked to a high number of suicides, has also helped cut rates, the report said.

Professor Louis Appleby, the government's mental health tzar, said: "Whilst these figures are positive, we must work hard to ensure that this downward trend continues.

"Changes in the suicide rate reflect the mental health of the community and every action we take to improve mental health services will help reduce these numbers further."

Health minister Rosie Winterton said: "The sustained decline in the suicide rate for young men is welcome.

"This shows that our suicide prevention strategy is having a real impact on the vulnerable people who most need help."

Sophie Corlett, director of policy at Mind, said: "The battle is far from won.

"This comes at a time when almost one in six mental health authorities are facing cuts.

"The government must keep suicide prevention at the top of the health agenda, by working harder to prevent self-inflicted deaths in prison, and prioritising mental health promotion throughout the country."

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, added: "We believe that lives are still being wasted and much heartache being caused to families because there is no effective response when people reach out for help."

Ian Hulatt, mental health adviser at the Royal College of Nursing, said the figures were a tribute the ability of the mental health services to reach individuals in times of distress, and avert a tragedy.

"However, we have to make sure that this crucial work continues and the current round of NHS deficits-related job losses and service cuts do not hit these valuable services.

"I fear that these could be a soft target for cuts, and this would be a tragedy for patients and the nurses doing this vital, specialised work."

Suicide strategy published
16 Sep 02 |  Health
One in six 'considers suicide'
25 Mar 02 |  Health

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