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CALM’s view on the new ONS suicide stats

Simon Gunning, CEO of the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), reacts to the ONS’s 2018 Suicide Registrations in the UK report. The full report is available to view here.

We’re hugely concerned by the latest ONS report on suicide, which represents the first increase in the rate of suicide in the UK since 2013. In 2018, 6,507 lives were lost to suicide in the UK and, again, three quarters of those deaths registered were male – a gender bias that has existed since the 1990s. While it’s too early to be able to identify if this increase is part of a larger societal trend, the report certainly makes for very difficult reading today.

At CALM we interact with people affected by this issue every day, and we can plainly see the pain so many people experience after losing a loved one through suicide. This report highlights the scale of the issue and brutally illustrates that, while great strides have been made around mental health and suicide awareness in recent years, this issue is not going away. Now more than ever, we must acknowledge this and act with urgency.

In these times of uncertainty, CALM strives to bring hope; hope that things can get better, and that we can all come through life’s tough times with the support, understanding and comfort of those around us. This is everybody’s issue: we all go through difficult times in life and the feelings and emotions that come with that are something that unites us as a species. We’re all connected and we’re all in it together. When we understand and acknowledge that we can see how, when left unsupported and isolated, it’s possible to reach a place where hope can diminish. We must prevent this and, thus, work to prevent people from reaching a point in which suicide becomes an option.

And so we all have a role to play in moving towards a more open and supportive society in which people feel able and empowered to seek support at the earliest possible stage. But that support has to be in place and effective across the board in order to yield positive results. Unfortunately, there is some distance to go in that respect.

“This report highlights the scale of the issue and brutally illustrates that, while great strides have been made around mental health and suicide awareness in recent years, this issue is not going away. Now more than ever, we must acknowledge this and act with urgency.”

Simon Gunning, CEO of CALM

As a direct result of our growth as an organisation we’re able to invest in our own life-saving services, meaning the free and anonymous CALM helpline and webchat are helping more people than ever before. In 2018 these services directly prevented 675 suicides, and they sit alongside other vital organisations that provide life-saving support. Through our experiences we see the effects hope, human connection and practical support can have on people’s lives.

Last year we proudly petitioned for the implementation of a new minister with specific responsibility for suicide prevention, which was answered with an appointment in October 2018. Whilst this was a great first step, we need to see more direct action and we welcome any opportunity to work with key decision makers in an attempt to change the picture around suicide in the UK.

We have seen commitments and improvements in recent years aimed at reducing the rate of suicide. While these have been positive steps, clearly it is not enough. We need greater prevention measures across the board, and we need that now. We urgently need to build services and systems that enable people to access hope and practical support when they need it. It is time to make change tangible, so that fewer people get to a stage in which suicide is their only option.

We urge everyone to join the movement against suicide.

By Simon Gunning, CEO of CALM.

Get support

Need support? Worried about someone? CALM’s helpline and webchat are open daily 5pm-midnight. Get access here. 

Have you been affected by suicide? The Support After Suicide Partnership is a hub for anyone bereaved or affected by suicide, where you can find emotional and practical support.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article or in the comments below, are not those held by CALM or its Trustees unless stated, and liability cannot be accepted for such comments. We encourage friendly and constructive debate, but please don't share personal contact details when commenting and exercise caution when considering any advice offered by others. We don’t allow abusive, offensive or inappropriate comments or comments that could be interpreted as libellous, defamatory or commercial and we will remove these without warning as and when we find them.

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