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More than one person taking their own life in Cornwall every week

More than one person taking their own life in Cornwall every week

Published by Emma Cartonat 7:27am 23rd May 2019. (Updated at 8:10am 23rd May 2019)

Written by Local Democracy Reporter Richard Whitehouse and Emma Carton

An average of more than one person a week takes their own life in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

That was a shocking fact which was given to Cornwall councillors at a special all-member briefing on suicide prevention last week.

They heard that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has one of the highest suicide rates in the country and also heard what is being done to try to prevent suicide.

To put the figures into context, councillors were told that around 765 people are murdered in the UK every year and around 2,000 die on the road.

However around 6,000 people die by suicide in the UK every year - around 4,500 men and 1,500 women.

Scroll down to read where to go to get advice if you are struggling.

Cornwall Council has produced a new leaflet to help with suicide prevention
Cornwall Council has produced a new leaflet as figures show more than one person a week takes their own life in Cornwall

What do the figures show?

In Cornwall there have been an average of 71 suicides a year between 2015 and 2017.

Compared to the rest of the South West and England, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has one of the highest suicide rates.

A three-year average showed there were 14.5 suicides for every 100,000 population in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly compared to 9.6 in England and 10.6 in the South West.

Breaking down the figures by gender, there were 22.3 male suicides per 100,000 population compared to 15.8 in the South West and 14.7 in England.

For women there were 7.3 in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly compared to 5.6 in the South West and 4.7 nationally.

Looking at the last three years in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly around 130 men have taken their own lives and 44 women.

But in the last 12 months there have been 65 men and 22 women - although council officers said that the figures for the last 12 months were based on suspected suicides as not every one had been subject to an inquest, where a verdict of suicide can be concluded.

The highest number of suicides were among men aged 35 to 39, 50 to 54 and 60 to 64. For women, the biggest age groups were 20 to 24, 25 to 29 and 50 to 54.

Councillors heard that evidence shows there are high-risk groups at risk from suicide which include young and middle aged men and people in the care of mental health services.

However there are also certain occupational groups which are at higher risk, including doctors, nurses, veterinary workers, farmers and agricultural workers.

In Cornwall the council has been working with partner agencies to see what can be done to prevent suicide and have also been working on 'postvention' as well.

The briefing heard that the council has a "towards zero approach" with the aim of trying to prevent all suicide.

Helen Lee-Savage, from Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust, compared reducing suicide to zero to work done in the aviation and rail industry to eradicate deaths.

She explained that the aviation industry would aim for zero and wouldn't aim to just protect first class passengers at the risk of second class passengers.

She said that zero was a "broad aspirational goal" and added: "For relatives of people who die from suicide they feel like plane crashes and train wrecks, it is just as painful for them".

As well as bringing various agencies together the suicide prevention team has also been focusing on self-harm and trying to prevent that as in some cases it can lead to suicide.

There was also work being done to assess every incidence of suicide to see what learning can be taken from it.

Dr Whitney Curry explained that the project was also working on postvention and helping those who have been impacted by suicide.

She said that good work had been done with various groups, including Penhaligon's Friends, which helps bereaved children.

Dr Curry said that while there had been a "dip" in the suicide rate between 2015 and 2017, she added: "I am not convinced that will continue, we are seeing an increase".

Where can I go to get help?

The briefing also heard about training that the council has been providing in relation to mental health first aid and approved suicide interaction skills training which is being made available in workplaces and community groups.

Councillors also heard about high profile media campaigns which have been targeting men by using posters in pubs encouraging people to talk about their mental health and plans to extend that to beer mats.

A special "How are you really feeling?" leaflet has also been produced and more than 20,000 have been distributed with another 10,000 about to be sent out.

The leaflet again encourages people to speak about their mental health and also ask about the wellbeing of others as well as providing links and contacts to support services.

Cornwall Council's 'How Are You Really Feeling?' website has a load of advice if you are struggling.

'Man Down - Supporting Men's Mental Health' is another group which offers support: Read more.

You can also call the Samaritans for confidential advice and support on 116 123: Read more on their website

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