Economic downturn could explain suicide rates, say mental health bosses

There were 34 suicides of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust patients in 2011/12.

There were 34 suicides of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust patients in 2011/12. - Credit: PA

The economic downturn could partly explain an increase in the number of suicides of mental health patients, officials said yesterday.

Board members of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) discussed the organisation's annual suicide prevention clinical audit, which show that 34 patients took their own lives between April 2011 and March 2012.

Twelve patients died within seven days of their last contact with the mental health trust and five died on the day they had contact with NSFT. Two of the suicides were also within inpatient units at the trust.

Between April 2010 and March 2011, the NHS trust also recorded 34 patient suicides.

However, Hadrian Ball, medical director of NSFT, said it was difficult to read anything into the figures. He added that data from a national inquiry showed that in 2011 the suicide rate of mental health patients was on the increase.

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'We do not know the real reason, but there has been an economic downturn and in the 1930s when there was the Great Depression and in the 1980s when there was a significant recession, suicide rates did go up and more people sought the help of mental health services. There has been a significant expansion in mental health services in the last few years, particularly with access to psychological therapies, and a far greater percentage of the population have contact with mental health services,' he said.

The highest proportion of suicides in Norfolk and Suffolk were amongst people between the ages of 40 and 59, which was consistent with the national picture, said Dr Ball.

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Peter Jefferys, non-executive director, said that two-thirds of suicides were men because they were less likely to see their GP.

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