Sharp increase in suicides shows the need to improve mental health crisis care

The number of suicides by patients with mental health problems who are receiving home treatment has increased significantly according to findings reported today in the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness (NCI) produced by The University of Manchester.

Sharp increase in suicides shows the need to improve mental health crisis careThe new report finds there were 1,333 suicides in mental health patients in England in 2011 – up from 1175 in 2010. It also reveals a decline in the number of homicides committed by mental health patients.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, the mental health charity, said:

Every life lost is a tragedy that affects families, friends and whole communities. These figures show clearly that, when in crisis, people with mental health problems are far more likely to harm themselves than they are to harm someone else and, while it is good news that homicides have dropped so dramatically, the increase in suicides is deeply concerning.

The current economic climate, unemployment and benefits cuts are likely to be having an impact but we know too that people in a mental health crisis aren’t always getting the help and support they need from the services there to support them. Mind’s own research has shown that, in many parts of the country, crisis care teams are under-resourced, understaffed and overstretched.

Good services can make a huge difference to whether someone recovers from a mental health crisis, yet we often hear from people who have been turned away because they ‘aren’t suicidal enough’ or who have been made to wait for hours to be assessed and offered help. When people in crisis don’t get the help they need, the consequences can be catastrophic.

This is important research shining a light on the number of vulnerable people that are taking their own life but further assessment of the data is needed so that we can see if this is an early warning sign of a long term trend.  Budgets for mental health services have been cut for the second year running and this could be a worrying indication that cuts are now having a serious impact.

The government needs to be investing in mental health now more than ever, particularly if they are to achieve true parity of esteem between physical and mental health.

Suicides by in-patients continue to fall

The National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness from the University of Manchester also released its Annual Report, and concluded that suicide by mental health patients has risen.The report recommends that relevant services should address the economic difficulties of patients who might be at risk of suicide, ensuring they receive advice on debts, housing and employment. It also recommends that safety efforts need to focus on patients receiving home treatment, including better assessment of risk.

Professor Louis Appleby, Director of the National Confidential Inquiry, said: “Ensuring patients receive advice on debts, housing and employment could make a difference, while improvements in home treatment should now become a priority for suicide prevention.”

More details can be found by visiting http://www.mind.org.uk/news/show/9178_dramatic_increase_in_suicides_shows_the_urgent_need_to_improve_mental_health_crisis_care

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