Suicide rate in England has risen, new figures show

Mind has called for more investment in community mental health services in response to the higher suicide rate

9th April 2024 about a 3 minute read
"We are still feeling the seismic effects from the pandemic, and the cost-of-living crisis is continuing to have a devastating impact on society. We must do much more to reverse this." Jen Walters, executive director of social change, Mind

A mental health charity has expressed concern at news that the suicide rate in England rose by 6% between 2022 and 2023.

According to new Office of National Statistics (ONS) data,  5,579 suicides were registered in England in 2023, equivalent to a provisional rate of 11.1 suicide deaths per 100,000 people. This rate was statistically significantly higher than the rates in 2022, 2021 and 2020, the ONS said.

The suicide rate for men was higher than that for women. Data for Q4 2023 data showed 17.0 suicide deaths per 100,000 males (1,051 deaths registered) and 6.1 suicide deaths per 100,000 females (388 deaths registered).

For deaths caused by suicide, around half of the deaths registered each year will have occurred in the previous year, or earlier, because of the length of time it takes to hold a coroner’s inquest.

Jen Walters of Mind said the increase was “very concerning,” adding: “Even one suicide is one too many. The causes of suicide are many, complex, and vary from one person to another.”

Walters said that part of the rise could be explained by impact of the Covid-19 pandemic: “We are still feeling the seismic effects from the pandemic, and the cost-of-living crisis is continuing to have a devastating impact on society. We must do much more to reverse this. 

“As we approach a general election, we need increased commitments from all parties to tackle the scale of need. This must be alongside the renewed Suicide Prevention Strategy to reduce head on the number of people experiencing mental health problems and reaching crisis point. This means investing in community mental health services that help prevent people from becoming unwell, removing longstanding inequalities, and putting in place measures so everyone with a mental health problem can get the help they need. This means urgent reform of the Mental Health Act and inpatient services for people experiencing crisis, including those who are self-harming, experiencing psychosis or suicidal thoughts.”

Possible rise in suicides among women

Police force area (PFA) data on suspected suicides for the period October 2022 to December 2023 reveals certain underlying trends, although the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) warns that these are “based on relatively small numbers” and are “not statistically significant”:

  • There is some suggestion of increasing rates of suspected suicide within the female population
  • There is some suggestion of decreasing rates of suspected suicide in the 45 to 64 age group in recent months
  • There are indications of higher rates in summer for males and 25-to-44 year olds

There also appears to be an increase, in the reporting period, in the use of drowning and poison as suicide methods.

The PFA data is contained in a report from OHID on suspected suicide, which aims to act as an early warning system for indications of changes in trends in suicides through analysis of data on suspected suicides.

The data in the OHID report is based on month and year of death occurrence. It differs from ONS suicide statistics which are usually based on date of registration of death. The approach used in the OHID report allows monitoring of seasonal variation in trends and is more appropriate for surveillance purposes.

FCC Insight

The rise in the suicide rate is potentially a cause for concern, though the rise is a small one and may turn out to be a blip. It is helpful to see that government is taking measures to tackle suicide, however, such as the OHID’s monitoring of suspected suicides, which can help identify underlying trends and take precautionary action. Similarly, the government’s Suicide Prevention Strategy, which is funding charities that work on reducing suicide, has been a positive initiative. Nonetheless, all the other data we have shows a general rise in numbers experiencing mental health problems, so we cannot be complacent. Mind is right to call for greater investment in community mental health services as a way of tackling problems early before they reach crisis point.