You are not alone

30 September 2016

Suicide and self-harm continue to be issues that we do not talk about openly within everyday life, whether this comes from a lack of understanding, fear or stigma.

This is concerning not only because suicide continues to be a leading cause of death in young men, but also because in essence these could be preventable deaths. 

While silence continues to be considered a killer, the findings from the newly released 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) show that having suicidal thoughts isn’t uncommon.

According to the survey’s results, a fifth of adults (20.6%) aged 16 and over in England have thought of taking their own life at some point in their lives. These findings show that an issue we don’t feel comfortable talking about is affecting one in every five of us. The more worrying statistic from the report, however, is that 1 in 15 adults in England (6.7%) have made an attempt at some point in their lives.

Austerity’s impact

Economic factors related to the recession, such as economic inactivity and lost employment status, were found by the survey to be related to suicidal thoughts and attempts. This was found to be most pronounced in individuals who receive employment and support allowance benefits (ESA), in which a staggering two thirds (66.4%) of individuals receiving ESA had thought about taking their own life, with almost half (43.2%) making an attempt. This demonstrates that the impact of austerity cannot be ignored within our approach to mental health and wellbeing.

Self-harm

In addition, the survey also shows that self-harm is not only an issue that we need to address for young people but also for adults, with 1 in 15 adults in England reporting that they had self-harmed at some point in their lives.

With figures for self-harm appearing to have increased since the last APMS survey results published in 2009, and an increased attention being given to this issue, it is surprising that only half of individuals who have self-harmed have reported seeking help from their GP, a health professional or their family and friends.

But where does our action need placed? Results from the survey highlight that while men have a 75% higher rate of completed suicide that demands attention and action, women have significantly higher rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts, with suicide rates in females having risen between 2013 and 2014. 

Furthermore, the APMS shows that 25% of all 16 to 24 year old women have self-harmed. Self-harm can no longer be ignored! With these rates rising from the 2007 statistics, and evidence stating that self-harm is a direct risk factor for suicidal behaviours, this is an important area of prevention that requires immediate action.

You are not alone

The trends appearing in the APMS 2014 survey results help to highlight two key points. The first is the need for us as a society, health professionals, politicians, community workers and individuals to take action to help prevent things getting to the point where anyone feels the need to take their own life. By tackling the key risk factors we may be able to protect those who are most vulnerable from potentially reaching this point.

The second, and perhaps the most important outcome of these trends, is that these figures show that there are many more people out there who have had these thoughts and feelings, who may or may not have acted on them.

This point isn’t to make comment on the deterioration of mental health in England but to highlight to anyone reading this blog or the statistics within the APMS 2014 that you are not alone. Look around your workplace, your lecture hall, the coffee shop you’re sitting in or on the bus on the way home from work - if one in five people have had similar thoughts, you are not the only one and you are not alone.

For more information about self-harm see our guide which debunks some of the myths around the topic, The truth about self-harm.

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