'We're here to help' message as suspected suicides rise
- Credit: Angela Sharpe Photography
A mental health boss is urging people to not suffer in silence following a rise in suspected suicides in Norfolk.
Dr Dan Dalton, chief medical officer for the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust, said it was important to ensure people could reach out to services after a report to the trust's board said there had been an increase.
The report said: "Sadly, in Norfolk, there has been an increase in the number of people who are suspected to have taken their own lives in the last year.
"Adults of less that 50 years of age appear to have been disproportionately affected; there is a small trend that suggests women in later life may also be affected."
A Samaritans spokesman said there was no current picture to suggest a rise in suicides during the pandemic.
Ahead of the board meeting on Thursday, Dr Dalton said in 2020, 111 people in Norfolk were thought to have taken their own lives. In 2019 it was 89.
Ahead of the trust's board meeting, Dr Dalton said: "It's enough of an increase for us to be concerned.
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"What that means is these are people we haven't been able to reach.
"It's not clear that there is a connection between that and Covid but we are really worried the impact of Covid on people's mental health might start to take its toll. And though we haven't seen that yet, it's something we need to be really vigilant towards."
He highlighted services such as First Response 24/7 line, working with families bereaved through suicide.
There are also projects at the Norfolk and Norwich and Ipswich hospitals A&E departments to assess young people who have thought about harming themselves and help them receive psychological support.
The Stepping Back Safely programme has also been set up as part of the trust's prevention work to help high-risk service users and their carers.
Dr Dalton said: "Our really important message is we have continued to offer mental health support throughout this period and if there is anyone out there that needs to keep in contact with us they can do.
"We're here for people, we're open and what we don't want is anyone to be suffering without the support that's available.
"What we need people to feel confident about is that it's worth asking twice if people are ok."
If you need help and support, call Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s First Response helpline 0808 196 3494 or the Samaritans on 116 123. Both services are available 24 hours 7 days a week. You can also download the Stay Alive app on Apple & Android.