Suicides in Havering are rising in contrast to national trends

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Get free confidential support from the Samaritans 24 hours a day on 116 123 - Credit: Rose Atkinson - supplied by Samaritans

Every year 15 people in Havering on average take their own lives.

This stark figure illustrates how suicide remains an important cause of premature death in the borough.

Yet, for many, suicide or thoughts of self harm are a taboo subject hidden and unspoken of.

The potentially devastating consequences are borne out by figures showing suicide rates in Havering have risen slightly over the last decade, in contrast to falling trends nationally.

From 2009-11 some 8.1 people in every 100,000 in Havering ended their own lives, up from a figure of 6.5 per 100,000 in 2001-03.

The rate had dropped back to 6.9 per 100,000 by 2011-13, but this was still a slight increase on a decade before.

Over the same timeframe the London-wide suicide rate fell from 11 per 100,000 people to 7.2.

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Havering Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the authority in charge of healthcare, said every death is one too many.

“While Havering’s rate is low compared to many other boroughs, every suicide is a tragedy and we must do all we can to help people who are at risk of taking their own life,” said a spokeswoman.

“There are many sources of mental health support available in the borough, from talking therapies for people with early signs of anxiety or depression, through to help in a crisis both in an out of hospital.”

Despite the slight rise, the rate of suicides in Havering remains relatively low with the borough ranking 22 out of 32 London boroughs. Westminster had the highest rate in the capital.

Nationally men are more likely than women to end their own lives and this is reflected in Havering, where males aged 40 to 44 are the group at highest risk.

While there are more male suicides, more women than men locally have a diagnosed mental health condition, suggesting that men are far less likely to seek help if they are experiencing a mental health crisis.

Data shows Havering also has relatively high rates of reported self-harm, but the gender patterns contrast to those for suicides.

About 60 per cent of hospital admissions for self harm in Havering are for women, and females aged 15 to 19 are the group most likely to self harm.

Research shows those living in deprived areas are at increased risk. Residents of Heaton ward are twice as likely to be admitted for self harm as those living in Upminster.

Currently there is no multi-agency approach to preventing suicides in the borough and the Havering Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, a blueprint of current and future mental health needs locally, strongly recommends implementing a plan in line with the national Suicide Prevention Strategy.

This aims to reduce rates of suicide in the general population and provide better support for those bereaved or affected by suicide.

Havering CCG said local health providers are working to develop such a strategy.

“Havering has a mental health partnership board which brings together the CCG, the borough council, healthcare providers including NELFT NHS Foundation Trust and London Ambulance Service, and voluntary organisations such as the Samaritans,” said the spokeswoman.

“The board is currently developing a suicide prevention strategy which will result in an action plan to bring suicide rates down locally.”

* Anyone experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide should always reach out for help. You can call Mental Health Direct any time on 0300 555 1000 to be put in touch with a mental health professional, or get free confidential support from the Samaritans on 116 123.