AN action plan to help prevent suicide in north and west Cumbria is currently being developed.

Members of Cumberland Council's health and wellbeing board were given a progress report on the Cumberland Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2024-2029 at the Civic Centre in Carlisle on Friday (December 8).

Georgina Tenant, the public health manager who has been responsible for the plan's development, told members it was important because every death by suicide had an impact on more than 100 people.

She said: "For Cumberland we need to have a new action plan."

David Blacklock, the chief executive of Healthwatch Cumberland, asked where decisions were made over resources and how much was spent on it?

Colin Cox, director of public health and communities, said there wasn't a single source and added: "We take funding wherever we can get it."

Whitehaven News: Cllr Lisa Brown, left, and right, Cllr Elaine LynchCllr Lisa Brown, left, and right, Cllr Elaine Lynch (Image: Cumberland Council)

Councillor Elaine Lynch (Wigton, Labour), the portfolio holder for lifelong learning and development, focused on the issue of suicide among young people and asked what links there were with schools and family hubs.

The former teacher added: "I've had experience of suicide attempts in schools."

Ms Tenant said that, while there were suicide attempts, there were very low numbers of young people taking their own life in the Cumberland area.

She said there were links with organisations such as Every Life Matters and several working groups.

Councillor Lisa Brown (Currock, Labour), the portfolio holder for governance and thriving communities, said factors leading to suicide could include gambling, economic stress and addiction and she asked whether it was always assumed that an overdose was deliberate?

Ms Tenant said it was a 'suspected suicide' until a coroner ruled otherwise and added: "There's a bit of an assumption that people want to die and they definitely don't."

Members noted the contents of the report and endorsed the continued working on the suicide prevention action plan.

According to the report, figures show that suicide rates in Barrow and Copeland are higher than other parts of Cumbria.

The report states that, after Blackpool, Cumbria has the highest rate of suicides among local councils in the north west and it is in the top quarter of local authorities with the highest rates of suicide in England.

In Cumbria between 2019 – 2021 the ONS data shows the suicide death rate per 100,000 people was 15.5, which is higher than the England rate of 10·4, and when viewed as localities:

  • the Allerdale rate was 16.4;
  • the Barrow rate was 19.2;
  • the Carlisle rate was 15.9;
  • the Copeland rate was 19.2;
  • the Eden rate was 11.7;
  • and in South Lakeland the rate was 10.5.

According to the report, national suicide data taken from coroners' reports since 2012 shows considerable progress has been made in implementing the priorities and actions that were previously set out in the Suicide Prevention Strategy for England.

The report states that in Cumbria, between January 2020 and October 2023, 287 people died by suspected suicide.

The council's public health team has a key leadership role on behalf of the council in the coordination of suicide prevention.

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