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06 Sep 2022

SANE responds to latest ONS data on suicides

The rate of registered suicides in England and Wales has risen to pre-pandemic levels following disruption and delays to coroners’ inquests during 2020.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said there were 5,583 suicides registered in 2021 in England and Wales, 6.9% higher than in 2020 (5,224 deaths), and equivalent to 10.7 deaths per 100,000 people.

The latest rate has returned to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels following a decrease in 2020 that was likely down to two factors; a decrease in male suicides at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and delays in death registrations because of the pandemic.

Males continued to account for three-quarters of suicide deaths registered in 2021 (4,129 male deaths compared with 1,454 female deaths), as seen since the mid-1990s.

Females aged 24 years or under have seen the largest increase in the suicide rate since records began in 1981. The rate saw its biggest annual increase from 2.5 deaths to 3.6 deaths per 100,000 females.

Suicide rates among young females have been steadily increasing over several years, said the ONS, adding that while year-on-year changes might not be statistically significant, comparison between 2015 and 2021 shows a statistically significant increase for those aged 10 to 24 and 25 to 44 years.

Marjorie Wallace CBE, Chief Executive of SANE, said: “Middle-aged men remain the most at risk, but the numbers of young girls and women taking their own lives is deeply alarming.

“We know from our own research that the majority of suicides by people with mental illness could be prevented if crisis services were more effective and responsive. Our concern is the number of cases we hear about which could have been avoided if someone had intervened and care beds were available.

“The new government must ensure that there are beds and specialist units available locally at every NHS trust to provide safe care and treatment for anyone at risk. No vulnerable person with suicidal thoughts should be sent away from A&E and left to suffer in silence.

“There is no justification for the unnecessary loss of lives and the devastation they inflict on families and the community. No-one should feel driven to such a state of hopelessness and despair for the future that they take their own life.”

Marjorie Wallace CBE, Chief Executive of SANE

The latest figures include deaths that occurred in 2020 and were subsequently registered in 2021 owing to disruption to coroners’ inquests, providing evidence that the suicide rate did not increase because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Among females, the age-specific suicide rate was highest in those aged 45 to 49 years (7.8 deaths per 100,000), while among males it was highest in those aged 50 to 54 years (22.7 deaths per 100,000).

James Tucker, Head of Analysis in the Health and Life Events Division, Office for National Statistics, said: “We saw a significant increase in the rate of deaths registered as suicide in 2021. This increase was the result of a lower number of suicides registered in 2020, because of the disruption to coroners’ inquests caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The 2021 suicide rate was similar to the pre-coronavirus pandemic rates in 2018 and 2019. The latest available evidence shows that suicide rates did not increase because of the coronavirus pandemic, which is contrary to some speculation at the time.”

Suicides in England and Wales: 2021 registrations – ONS

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