Doctor: Essex has ‘failed’ those people who have taken or tried to take their own lives

Doctor: Essex has 'failed' those people who have taken or tried to take their own lives

Essex has “failed” those people who have taken or tried to take their own lives, an council committee has heard.

Dr Hasan Chowhan, clinical chair of North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), made the comments at a meeting of the Essex Health and Wellbeing Board today (July 17)  during a discussion of the strategy to tackle suicide prevention in the county.

While rates of suicide in Southend have declined over the past 16 years, the rate in Essex has increased from just over eight people per 100,000 to around 11.

At the time of the last audit completed for 2017, there was a total of 141 deaths recorded that year as suicide across the county.

Of the total, 111 were  over the age of 26 and73 per cent of suicides involved males.

The most prevalent age for men were those between 40 and 49 and between 40 and 44 for women.

As many as 83 per cent of suicides of people aged between 18 and 25 involved substances such as drugs and alcohol.

In those aged 26 and over, 31 per cent involved a history of alcohol misuse and 21 per cent involved a history of drug abuse.

However the council’s strategy has been criticised as failing those who have taking their own lives – despite it focusing on high risk groups, for example through Essex County Council’s Strengthening Communities agenda.

This has involved a programme aimed at reducing social isolation and loneliness, community-based programmes such as Men’s Sheds, as well as mental health first aid training in communities and suicide awareness training via social media groups.

Dr Chowhan said: “There’s substance misuse and there’s loneliness. It struck me that several months ago the boards and committees discussed these things over and over again and we are failing our population in terms of getting a solution for that.

“It’s a strong word but I think we are.

“And that’s based on my second point and that is if you look at the 18 to 26 range the report says in last 12 month a significant proportion had suicide attempts.

It is a fair statement that we have failed those individuals in terms of actually being able to prevent what’s happening.”

The council has now set up a suicide steering board to coordinate activities addressing factors underpinning the risks associated with suicide.

The council is following the national ambition to reduce the suicide rate by 10 per cent by 2021 from figures in 2016/17.

Committee chair John Spence said: “We all feel that ten per cent as a target is a long way from where our ambition ought to be but we understand why it’s there.”

By Piers Meyler – Local Democracy Reporter

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