WORRYING statistics have emerged presenting a stark picture of mental health in Cumbria.

The figures, derived from the Office of National Statistics, show that Barrow and Copeland place fifth and sixth for the highest suicide rate by district in England, that Cumbria has a 50 per cent higher suicide rate than the England average, and that Cumbria is in the top 10 local authority areas of years lost to death by suicide.

The National NHS Transformation Funding, delivered through the North East Cumbria Suicide Prevention Network, has just ended in north Cumbria. 

A spokesperson for Every Life Matters, a Cumbrian suicide prevention and suicide bereavement support charity, said: "We would like to see both new councils more actively support suicide prevention going forward, given the very high rates we have in Cumbria, through funding, through leadership and strategy and through leading by example by implementing training, policy and procedure that create suicide safer workplaces and local communities.

"We would ask that suicide prevention is written into council strategy, that a target and activity driven suicide prevention strategy is in place in each council area that co-ordinates activities of cross sector members and scrutinises performance of both the strategy and of local mental health services."

Whitehaven News: Barrow and Copeland show worrying suicide figuresBarrow and Copeland show worrying suicide figures (Image: Every Life Matters)

Every death by suicide is an individual tragedy that impacts many people around the person who died.

Family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, emergency services and more. Each death leaves trauma and pain in its wake and is estimated to cost £1.7 million related to the emotional, financial and physical impact on those bereaved, lost working hours, taxes and more.

In Cumbria this equates to over £100million annually, according to the ONS statistics.

Mike Hawkins, Cumberland councillor said: "The statistics around suicide in Cumbria are worrying to us all. As well as being a Cumberland councillor, I have worked in mental health support for several years, and seen first-hand how more people are struggling.

"I firmly believe that the more we break down the barriers surrounding mental health the better.

"Clearly there is still a long way to go, so as we start with the new authority I am pleased that we are going to make public health the centre of everything we do.

"I feel we have a unique opportunity with the new localized working start to tackle issues such as suicide prevention though more awareness and more cooperative working across different sectors."

The Every Life Matters spokesperson continued: "Tackling suicide is a complex and multi-faceted issue. We need mental health services that are accessible and manage the risk around suicide competently and with compassion.

"We need to remove the stigma around reaching out for help.

"Still most people dying by suicide are not seeking help, and die alone believing that world is genuinely better off without them, or that death is the only solution to their problems."

Whitehaven News: Cumbria's suicide rate is 50 per cent higher than the country's averageCumbria's suicide rate is 50 per cent higher than the country's average (Image: Every Life Matters)

"We need a community around those experiencing thoughts of suicide who feel able to talk openly about suicide, who understand the signs that someone may be at risk, who can ask directly about suicide and who can guide someone at risk to the support they need.

"And we need to ensure that those bereaved by suicide, generally considered to be one of the most traumatic forms of loss, have the range of support available to them, when they need it.

"All of these areas need to be addressed and suicide prevention needs to be everyone’s business. Every individual and organisation can play a role in saving lives.

"Tackling Cumbria’s deeply entrenched and high suicide rates is going to take a long term effort that needs to be both well-funded and evidence driven. Both NHS and the new councils need to play a role in this."

One figure released shows that Cumbria has double the England average of people dying by suicide who were in contact with mental health services.

A person who lost a family member to suicide last year, and who wishes to remain anonymous has said:  "Often with mental health, we see the slogan 'talk to your friends' and 'speak up', which are, of course incredibly important, but in some cases, the person concerned has done everything right in reacing out to services, but the underfunded services itself has failed that person.

Whitehaven News: Statistics show that Cumbria has double the England average of people dying by suicide who were in contact with mental health servicesStatistics show that Cumbria has double the England average of people dying by suicide who were in contact with mental health services (Image: Every Life Matters)

"Despite mental health being a much more talked about subject now, it still remains one of the most underfunded sectors of our healthcare.

"Cumbria is one of the biggest counties in England but is funded in a way which does not reflect rural areas, meaning that the rural areas produce much higher suicide rates which leave on-going devestating affects for families."

For more information about where to get help when you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, or how you can support someone at risk, or if you have been bereaved by suicide, visit every-life-matters.org.uk

If you are having thoughts of suicide support is available at:

North Cumbria NHS Universal Mental Health Crisis Line 0800 652 2865 open 24 hrs a day/7 days a week

South Cumbria NHS Urgent Mental Health Support Line 0800 953 0110 open 24 hrs a day/7 days a week

Samaritans – Call 116 123 – There round the clock, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

PAPYRUS – Call 0800 068 41 41 – 9am to midnight. Support line for young people at risk of suicide.

CALM – Call 0800 58 58 58. Men’s Helpline open 5pm – Midnight

Shout Crisis Text Service – Text Shout to 85258 to get 24/7 text support