'Action needed' to cut Doncaster suicide rates

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Action is needed to reduce high suicide rates in a South Yorkshire town, an NHS chief has said.

Figures show that from 2008 to 2010 the suicide rate in Doncaster was 9.28 per 100,000 people. The next highest rate in the county was 7.25 in Barnsley.

The suicide rate for England and Wales in 2010 was 6.75 per 100,000 people.

Dr Rupert Suckling, deputy director of public health, said unemployed middle-aged men were now the group at highest risk of committing suicide.

In its latest annual report on public health, NHS Doncaster said suicide was one of 10 issues that required "more in-depth understanding and concerted action".

Community awareness

The report states: "Suicide rates are currently significantly higher in Doncaster and there is some evidence that the rate might be increasing.

"Because the national rate shows a slight decline there is evidence of a widening gap between Doncaster and England and Wales."

Dr Suckling told the BBC: "If you have long-standing mental health issues, alcohol addiction problems or long-standing physical health issues you can be more at risk but what we are seeing with this increase that we have seen recently is these people won't have had any mental health issues in the past, it's just that combination of being unemployed, out of work and problems paying the bills, it's enough to tip some people into taking their own lives.

"This increase seems to be in middle-aged men and in particular middle-aged men who have lost their jobs."

Dr Suckling said the local NHS was working with people at high risk of suicide, such as those with mental health issues or offenders.

He added: "We are also trying to make sure that the community in Doncaster in particular have got more awareness around mental health issues per se so that people feel that they can talk about how they feel and know where to turn for help."

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