The suicide rate in the U.K. drastically shot up in 2011, reaching an all time high since 2004, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics. The 8% increase in the number of suicides from 2010 to 2011 highlights the effects that times of financial hardship can have on the public.

In total, there were 6,045 suicides in 2011 which is 437 more than the previous year, translating into a rise from 11.1 to 11.8 deaths per 100,000 people. The number of male suicides increased in 2011 to 4,552, a rate of 18.2 per 100,000 (the highest it’s been in 10 years). Female suicides also increased to 1,493, a rate of 5.6 per 100,000 (the highest rate in 6 years).

The suicide rate was highest among men in their late 30s and early 40s (23.5 deaths per 100,000 population in 2011). Suicide is the second biggest killer among young men globally. A recent study published in The Lancet found that there is a serious lack of research into what prevention techniques are the most effective in preventing suicide.

Care services minister, Norman Lamb, said:

“The rise in the numbers of people committing suicide causes very real concern. We need to tackle this head on … we also need to make sure information about treatment and support is available to those who need them, including those who are suffering from bereavement following a suicide.Giving greater priority to mental health services, and to improving access, are also critical.”

The UK government recently announced an increase in spending on suicide prevention strategies of £1.5 million in order to provide more support to families that are experiencing serious problems that can severely impact on their mental health. They are hoping that they can prevent people from harming themselves, and provide a voice of reason.

Mr Lamb added:

“We want to reduce suicides by better supporting those most at risk and providing information for those affected by a loved one’s suicide.Effective suicide prevention requires combined effort from a wide range of organisations across the voluntary, statutory and private sectors. That is why I’m delighted that almost 50 national organisations have responded to the Call to Action and why we have worked with Samaritans in order to help provide support to those most in need.”

In 2011, the ONS addressed an issue where classification rules were preventing them from classing some deaths as suicides, even though they most likely were. Previously, the classification of narrative verdicts in England did not include self-harm. This change could have increased the number of narrative verdicts classed as intentional self-harm – increasing the number of suicides the ONS had identified.

Written by Joseph Nordqvist