Alarm at suicide figures

Don't bottle up your problems, tell someone if you are feeling depressed

Don't bottle up your problems, tell someone if you are feeling depressed

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HEALTH chiefs have produced the most comprehensive review ever of the borough’s increasingly alarming suicide rates.

The report, presented to councillors, reveals THREE times more men have taken their lives than women.

Most people think if you say you’re suicidal someone is going to jump on you and put you in a padded cell. It is completely the opposite, and that’s the key message we want to get out

Ian Stirton-Cook

And the borough’s suicide rate (11.3 deaths per 100,000 population) is higher than both the North West (10.1) and national figures (8.8). A total of 87 deaths were recorded as suicides between 2011 and 2013.

The document also reveals:

Record numbers of women taking their own lives in 2013

Men aged between 45 and 49 are the most at-risk age group

The average cost of a suicide of a working age individual is £1.67m

Atherton, Tyldesley, central Leigh, Abram and Platt Bridge all identified as suicide hotspots

Prof Kate Ardern, director of public health at Wigan Council, said suicide rates in the borough, despite a recent dip, remain a major concern to health officials.

She added: “The latest suicide audit shows there has been a reduction in the number of suicides in Wigan borough from 2011 to 2013.

“Despite this our figures are higher than the regional and national average.

“In response to these figures a multi-agency Wigan Borough Suicide Prevention Group has been established, with representatives from Wigan Council, CCG, 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Trust, Greater Manchester Police and the voluntary sector working together to develop a Suicide Prevention strategy and targeted action plan.

“The action plan will focus on reducing the local suicide rate by utilising the intelligence available to provide a targeted response aimed at those identified as at risk. As well as providing better support for those bereaved or affected by suicide.”

Also highlighted are the most prevalent contributory factors to suicide, with relationship problems by far the most common issue, followed by loss of employment and drug or alcohol problems.

The report also calls for the council’s prevention strategy to be targeted at specific, at-risk groups. These include young and middle-aged men, people in the care of mental health services, those with a history of self-harm and specific occupational group, named as doctors, nurses, veterinary workers, farmers and agricultural workers.

Mental health bosses in the borough recently launched an awareness campaign to highlight that any residents who need help will always have somewhere to turn for aid.

Adults and Therapy services business manager at 5 Boroughs Partnership Trust, Ian Stirton-Cook said: “Most people think if you say you’re suicidal someone is going to jump on you and put you in a padded cell. It is completely the opposite, and that’s the key message we want to get out.

“We want to encourage people to start talking about it. Everyone is this room has dealt in the past 12 months with some tragic situations in Wigan, this is why we’re doing it.”

The report adds in terms of years of life lost due to suicide, Wigan borough (47.3 years per 10,000) compares negatively to the North West (37.4) and national (31.4) rates.

And the vast majority of cases were recorded with a cause of death of suspension by ligature.

It also identified a number of consistent “life issues” said to have contributed to the deaths, stating: “At the time of death, these included 45 persons experiencing relationship issues, 33 persons with alcohol issues, 29 persons with other health issues, 28 persons with drug use and 19 persons with recent job loss.”

For the first time the statistics are compared with areas of deprivation in the borough and geographical hotspots include the Atherton and Tyldesley area in addition to central Leigh and Abram/Platt Bridge.

The report includes: “This audit will be used alongside national data, strategy and recommendations in developing a borough-wide suicide prevention strategy and action plan.

“This strategy and action plan overall objective will be for a reduction in the local suicide rate and a better support for those bereaved or affected by suicide.”

The discrepancy between male and females is an issue the 5 Boroughs mental health team is trying to tackle by breaking down the stigma surrounding men opening up to health professionals.

Dr Chetan Majjiga said: “Stigma around mental health is one of our main battles and we need to sell the message that mental illness is actually prevalent in the community. One in four of us suffer some kind of stress in that way.

“For people to accept that it’s okay to feel down, that is the message we want to get across to people.”