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Suicide strategy launch: Middle-aged men 'highest risk'

image captionMiddle-aged men are at particular risk

Middle-aged men are now the group at highest risk of committing suicide in England, statistics reveal.

Key reasons could be job or money worries due to the recession, says a new government strategy to reduce the number of suicides.

Suicide rates among young men - previously the most at-risk group - have fallen. There was a total of 4,215 suicides recorded in 2010.

Charities said better support was key to cutting rates further.

It is 10 years since the government published its last strategy to tackle suicide rates.

Overall the rate of suicides has fallen - but there has been a slight increase in recent years.

Complex reasons

The strategy says the current economic problems are likely to have a bearing on rates. particularly in middle-aged men.

"Previously, periods of high unemployment or severe economic problems have had an adverse effect on the mental health of the population and have been associated with higher rates of suicide," it stated.

"Evidence is emerging of an impact of the current recession on suicides in affected countries."

media captionLiberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb: "Absolutely critical" to get message out to the key people

The most recent figures show that in 2008-10 the three-year average suicide rate for 35-49 year old males was the highest of any group, at 20.8 per 100,000 population

However, suicide risk is recognised as being complex, and most often a combination of factors.

The government is promising £1.5m for research into how to tackle suicide in at-risk groups.

Aside from middle-aged men, these include people with mental health problems and those with a history of self-harm.

Strategies to reduce the risk of suicide include reducing access to suicide-related internet sites for children and reducing the opportunity for suicide for people in prisons or mental health facilities.

The government has also promised better information and support for those bereaved or affected by suicide.

'Everyone's business'

Care minister Norman Lamb said: "Over the last 10 years there has been real progress in reducing the suicide rate, but it is still the case that someone takes their own life every two hours in England.

"We want to reduce suicides by better supporting those most at risk and providing information for those affected by a loved one's suicide."

Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, welcomed the strategy, but said: "As with all strategies, the real value comes with implementation.

"The funding pledged for research is a vital contribution. However, at a time when there are cuts to health services, we would strongly urge the government to invest in the services it expects to deliver this strategy.

"In addition, as our new health minister has today acknowledged, suicide prevention is everyone's business, so we need to see a real commitment from all government departments in supporting those at risk."

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