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Monday, 3 July, 2000, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK
Doctors back changes to suicide strategy
Depression
Young men are most at risk of committing suicide
Strategies aimed at reducing suicide among young men are failing to make an impact, according to doctors.

While suicide rates for women and older men have fallen substantially in the past 10 years, rates for younger men remain the same.

Doctors at Imperial College London have called for the lessons of the past 10 years to be used to draw up new anti-suicide strategies.

The government has set a target to reduce suicide deaths by at least one fifth by 2010.

Speaking at the Royal College of Psychiatrists annual meeting in Edinburgh, the team from Imperial College said future policies should take recent enquiries and studies into account.

They suggested that suicide enquiries, predicted trends in suicide rates and studies into psychological autopsy and parasuicide should be used to inform strategies.

Analysis

The Imperial College team analysed the figures drawn up by the Office for National Statistics over the past 10 years.

They concluded that suicide reduction strategies, improved social conditions and the introduction of catalytic converters have all contributed to a reduction in overall suicide rates.

The study also found that deaths as a result of exhaust fume poisoning has fallen but that hanging as a means of suicide has increased.

They suggested that future suicide reduction strategies should focus on reducing the availability of "lethal agents" of suicide. They added that policies must concentrate more on young men.



I am not very confident that suicide rates among young men will change

Dr Mike McClure, Imperial College London

Dr Mike McClure, a consultant in child and adolescent psychiatry at Imperial College and author of the study, said the increase could be attributed to greater social exclusion and increased use of alcohol and drugs.

"We have to identify the reasons why this particular group are so vulnerable. One may be the increase in problems with drugs and alcohol and another may be social exclusion.

"Individuals who are unemployed, or individuals who come from broken relationships or are homeless are also at risk."

Speaking to BBC News Online, Dr McClure said he was not confident that future strategies would result in a fall in male suicide rates.

"I am not very confident that suicide rates among young men will change because there has been a change in suicide methods. The number of suicides as a result of poisoning by vehicle exhaust fumes has decreased.

"Many young men are now hanging themselves, which is much more difficult to tackle."

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See also:

19 May 00 | Health
Teenage self-harm 'soars'
15 May 00 | Health
Men's health 'low priority'
17 Apr 00 | Health
Young men 'failed over suicide'
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