UK

Suicide 'rise' in middle-aged male mental health patients - report

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The number of male mental health patients in the UK who die by suicide has risen by almost a third in the last decade, new research suggests.

The biggest increases were in men aged 45 to 54, where the number of deaths since 2006 rose by 73%, the University of Manchester report said.

Male deaths should be seen as "a suicide prevention priority", it said.

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Media captionTom Metcalf, who suffers from depression, told Victoria Derbyshire: "It's a very difficult and dark place"

The total number of suicides by UK mental health patients reached a 10-year high in 2013, the report said.

There were 1,876 patient suicides recorded that year - compared to 1,453 in 2006, the lowest number recorded in the decade, according to the report.

The number of male patient suicides in the UK has risen by 29% during the same period, the report suggested.


'No lonelier place'

Peter Warwick, 49, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, says he has tried to take his own life twice in the last eight years.

Asked how he would describe what happened, he said there was "no lonelier place" and that everything got "too much".

He told the Victoria Derbyshire programme: "Whether you like it or not, I feel that men are very reticent to speak about their wellbeing, or their health - they find it hard.

"This is the problem. This is where it really is going to take its toll.

"It is a terrible rise in the last few years and I honestly believe that people who go and say they are feeling suicidal have to be believed."

Talking about his own experience, he added: "You present yourself, but what happened to me, was [they said] 'we will send you home with a diazepam and we will see you in the morning'.

"Well, if you are suicidal that's not good enough. You could go and kill yourself."

A silence that kills men


'Proactive approach'

Professor Louis Appleby, director of the University of Manchester's National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness, said a number of factors were behind the increase.

"The problem is not simply that they don't seek help - they are already under mental health care - so we have to understand better the stresses men in this age group face," he said.

Factors including alcohol misuse, isolation, unemployment and debt add to the risk of suicide in male patients and need to be addressed, the report said.

Mental health charity Mind said a more proactive approach to supporting men who were experiencing suicidal thoughts was needed to make sure they get the right help at the right time.

The report - which looked at patient suicides from 2003 to 2013 - said the rise in the total number of suicides was mainly due to an increase in suicides in England, where patient numbers have also risen.

Its authors warned that deaths in mental health patients have become "substantially more common".

They suggested that patient suicides accounted for 30% of all suicides in 2013 - an increase of 3% from 10 years earlier.


Are you affected?

  • Samaritans provides emotional support, 24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or thoughts of suicide
  • Its number is 08457 90 90 90
  • Rethink Mental Illness has more than 200 mental health services and 150 support groups across England.
  • Its number is 0300 5000 927

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