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Hammersmith & Fulham has highest suicide rate in London since 2008

Hammersmith & Fulham has had the highest average suicide rate in London since 2008-10, according to the Office of National Statistics.

The borough’s average suicide rate of 11.2 people per 100,000 far exceeds the London average of per 8.1 people per 100,000 in that time.

ONS data also revealed Hammersmith & Fulham has had the highest suicide rate of any London borough for the last two full periods of verified data.

In 2019-2021 the borough’s suicide rate was 12.8 per 100,000 people, dropping to 11 per 100,000 people for 2020-22. 

The London average suicide rate dropped from 7.3 people per 100,000 in 2019-21 to 6.9 people per 100,000 in 2020-22. 

And contrary to most of London, Hammersmith and Fulham’s rate has risen in the last 20 years.

It’s gone up from 10.6 per 100,000 people in 2001-2003 to 11 per 100,000 people in 2020-2022.

Since 2001 London has seen a drop year-on-year.

The rate was 10.1 people per 100,000 in 2001-2003 down to 6.9 people per 100,000 in 2020-22. 

Suicide prevention plan

This data has not taken the borough wholly by surprise. 

In 2021 they published a suicide prevention needs assessment which brought together local service providers and used data from the coroner’s office, NHS, and police services.

This created a comprehensive overview of the issues facing people at greatest risk of suicide. 

The council found the trigger factors were a high prevalence of unemployment, crime, social isolation, poverty, and substance misuse issues. 

This initial assessment also discovered that 7% of the adult population in Hammersmith and Fulham has a diagnosis of depression.

This is lower than levels in the rest of London. 

A borough spokesperson said: “We have a suicide learning panel and a suicide prevention group.

“We learn from any new tragic suicide and build the learning into our prevention strategy.

“Given the high number of cases we have now refreshed that group to update the plan.”

Hammersmith & Fulham top a bar chart showing the average suicide rate per 100,000 people for each London borough from 2010-2022.

 A neighbourhood model

The spokesperson added: “Our Adult Social Care team is looking at how we can work better with NHS and voluntary sector partners. 

“We are moving towards a neighbourhood model, which enables teams from Hammersmith & Fulham and the NHS to work within the communities.

“We already have good networks for supporting people with drug, mental health and alcohol issues.

“Analysing 21 deaths by suicide in 2023 we found that the majority of cases had mental health issues (71%).

“Almost half were in contact with mental health services in the last year of their life (43%).”

The line chart shows the average rate for London dropping over a 20 year period, while Hammersmith & Fulham has stayed at a consistently high rate.

The Listening Place

Part of Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s approach has to been to commission a suicide crisis centre to support people in the borough.

The Listening Place’s main office on Shepherds Bush Road receives more than 600 referrals per month and supports more than 5,000 people per year.

They make clear there is no stereotypical visitor.

Their website states: “The people we support come from a widely diverse range of backgrounds, experiences and ethnicities.

“Many have been the victims of incredibly challenging situations.”

The Listening Place’s own research revealed: “On the 10 point scale, feelings of suicidality dropped from 7.03-5.13. after accessing the service.”

Access is crucial

The mental health charity Mind are active in the borough and highlight that good access to mental health services is crucial in helping people before they make a tragic decision.

A Mind spokesperson said: “Communities with limited social support networks and lack of community engagement may experience higher rates of suicide.”

The charity runs a Safe Space centre on Lillie Road, which is a local hub for anyone nearing crisis point.

Crucially this includes carers.

The council’s assessment in 2021 found 74% of carers experienced social isolation, a higher proportion than elsewhere in London and England. 

Smashing the stigma

The charity spokesperson added: “Cultural attitudes toward mental health and help-seeking behaviour can also impact suicide rates within society.

“Stigma surrounding mental health and suicide can prevent individuals from seeking support, especially men.”

ONS data highlights that nationwide the level of suicides in men is far higher than that in women. 

The last confirmed data in 2021 found that the average rate in the whole of England for men was 15.2 per 100,0000 men compared with 4.9 per 100,000 women.

Mind said they will continue to work in partnership with relevant agencies to break this stigma.

Access for the younger generation

Mind also offers Safe Space services in A&E departments.

Adults who visit A&E for emergency mental health support can be referred to the Safe Space Emergency Department via Psychiatric Liaison Teams.

With nearly a third of the borough’s popoulation (31 per cent) 24 and under, Mind have taken a proactive approach with younger people.

Their spokesperson added: “Through targeted promotion at local universities and colleges, we have seen an increase in the younger population accessing Safe Space. 

“We have also seen that most of the Safe Space Emergency Department visitors referred in the community have been of a younger age.” 

No easy fix

The Mind spokesperson agreed with The Listening Place’s assessment that there is no stereotypical person who may reach crisis point.

He said: “Suicide is a complex issue with multifaceted causes.

“Individual cases can be influenced by a combination of biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors.”

The drop in suicide rate in the latest data offers hope that council and charity outreach is having an effect.

If you live in Hammersmith & Fulham and are struggling, please reach out.

You can contact The Listening Place here.

Safe Space can be found here.

You can contact Samaritans any time for free on 116 123.

Featured image credit: Chmee2 via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0 licence

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