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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 June 2006, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Drive to bring down male suicides
Depressed man
Suicide is a major cause of death in young men
The government has pledged to do more to try to reduce the suicide rate among young men.

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said lessons learned from three pilot studies designed to help vulnerable young men would be widely disseminated.

The pilots found the best approach was to engage young men in community, rather than formal settings, which they found less threatening.

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

We need to redouble our efforts in getting young men to look after their mental well-being
Rosie Winterton

Men are nearly three times as likely to take their own lives than women.

Speaking at a conference on the issue, Ms Winterton said: "We must do everything we can to prevent these deaths as each case is a needless tragedy for the friends and family of the victim, as well as for society."

More trust

The pilots, based in Camden, north London, Bedfordshire and Manchester, found young men favoured community settings, such as youth centres, over more formal places such as GP surgeries.

The young men found community settings less threatening, and said they engendered a greater sense of trust.

The choice of language used by health professionals and counsellors was also found to be important.

Rather than using stigmatised terms such as "mental health", less loaded phrases such as "dealing with stress" seemed to have a positive effect.

The report into the pilots also called for better information for families and friends, who can often be a source of immediate support.

Ms Winterton said: "Although we have recently seen a fall in the suicide rate amongst young men, we need to work hard to ensure that this downward trend continues.

"We already have a national suicide strategy that is starting to have an impact but we need to redouble our efforts in getting young men to look after their mental well-being and seek help when they need it."

Some success

Figures for the last five years show a downward trend in the number of young men taking their own lives.

However, more than 1,300 young men still took their own lives last year, according to official figures.

Dr Marcus Roberts, head of policy at the mental health charity Mind, welcomed the government's commitment to tacking the problem.

He said: "These pilots show that solid investment and active outreach have the potential to make a real difference.

"Mental wellbeing is an issue for everyone and young people are often under particular pressure.

"Traditional services have not catered well for the needs of young men and it's good to see the development of new approaches."

Marjorie Wallace, of the charity Sane, said young men - as all patients - were at the greatest risk of suicide soon after they were discharged from hospital.

However, too little effort was made to offer care during this critical period.

She said: "We need more than these good ideas when we already have tragically obvious ways of preventing loss of young life."

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