Department of Health and Social Care
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National system launched to rapidly identify trends in suicides

New suicide surveillance system launched to tackle emerging methods of suicide and clamp down on those seeking to sell dangerous products to vulnerable people.

  • Government delivers on key commitment in National Suicide Prevention Strategy to help thousands more people approaching crisis to get the support they need
  • Near to real-time suicide surveillance system for England launched, with government working with police to quickly gather vital data on tragic suicides including gender, age group, and method
  • Milestone will support rollout of new national alert system to notify schools, universities, and charities of emerging methods of suicide and risks

Efforts to tackle emerging methods of suicide and clamp down on those seeking to sell dangerous products to vulnerable people were bolstered today, as the government delivered on a key commitment in its National Suicide Prevention Strategy and launched a new suicide surveillance system.

Working alongside the National Police Chiefs’ Council to bring together important local intelligence, the government will obtain near to real-time data from across the country on deaths by suspected suicide by gender, age group, and method.

Previously, the only suicide data available at a national level was provided by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), but it could take up to two years for the official ONS data to come through. From today [Thursday 30 November], however, the data will be received from individual police forces in England and the government will get it within three months of a suspected suicide.

Female deaths by suicide, for example, are increasing at a higher rate than male deaths therefore it’s imperative such trends are captured as early as possible and preventative measures put in place to save lives.

A monthly report on the new datasets will be published by the government, and it will act as an early warning system for indications of any change in tragic suicides.

The new datasets will also support the future rollout of a national alert system on emerging methods or risks, so anyone who comes into contact with potentially dangerous new methods of suicide will have a direct link into central government to report it. Through this, alerts will soon be circulated to all authorities like schools and charities who should be aware and may be required to take mitigating action.

Mental Health Minister Maria Caulfield said:

Every suicide is a tragedy and has a devastating, enduring impact on families and communities, but we are working at pace to reduce the number of suicides, support those reaching the lowest point, and tackle emerging methods and harmful online material.

The national suspected suicide surveillance system is vital to achieving this, and will provide important near real-time data so we can spot anomalies in age, gender and method more quickly and take the necessary action to save lives.

The National Suicide Prevention Strategy launched earlier this year saw the government pledge to reduce England’s suicide rate within two and a half years, with the commitment backed by more than 100 measures.

It is already an offence under the Suicide Act to encourage or assist suicide. The Online Safety Act goes even further to tackle these crimes, while also ensuring the largest social media companies proactively prevent people from seeing content that encourages or assists suicide.

Today’s data for England for the 15 months to August 2023 does not indicate an obvious change in trend in overall suspected suicide rates over the period. Suspected suicide rates do show a reduction in the most recent months, but it should be noted there are contributing factors and the situation continues to be monitored.  

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Suicide Prevention, Assistant Chief Constable Charlie Doyle, said:

Suicide has a devastating impact, we must do all we can to protect people and reduce preventable death.

We welcome today’s announcement by the government and will continue to work with partners to reduce suicide.

The government is investing £2.3 billion extra a year into mental health services to help an additional two million people access NHS-funded mental health support by 2024, and we’ve recently launched a £10 million fund for the voluntary sector in England to carry out crucial work to save lives until 2025.

£150 million is being invested up to April 2025 to better support people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, mental health crises. This will support the roll-out of mental health ambulances and delivery of over 160 projects - including alternatives to A&E - to ensure people can receive specialist care in appropriate spaces and help ease pressure on the NHS.

The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan also sets out an ambition to grow the mental health workforce by 73% by 2036 to 2037, and the workforce already continues to grow to help cut waiting lists.

Support is available for anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts on the NHS website.

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