Suicide in mental health service users

Suicides by people in contact with mental health services are arguably the most preventable. There is scope for reducing some of these tragic events through improved systems of care. As part of the national ambition to reduce suicide by 10% by 2020/21, the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health has recommended that deaths by suicide across NHS-funded mental health settings are learned from to prevent repeat events.

How has the number of suicides by people in contact with mental health services changed over time?

In the UK, there were 1,612 suicides by people who had been in contact with mental health services in the previous 12 months in 2016. This accounts for 27% of all suicides in the general population.

Between 2006 and 2016, the number of suicides by people in contact with mental health services in the UK increased from 1,453 to 1,612 (an 11% increase). The highest number of patient suicides occurred in 2011-13, but have fallen since then. This pattern was seen in all countries apart from Northern Ireland.

Updated October 2018.

How has the rate of suicide in mental health service users changed over time in England?

Rates of patient suicide, where you take into account the rising number of people receiving mental health care, show a different pattern. Although rates pre- and post- 2011 are not comparable because of changes in the Mental Health Services Data Set methodology, patient suicide rates fell in both time periods. Therefore, although the number of patient suicides has increased, as a proportion of mental health service users the suicide rate has fallen. 

The rate of suicide in mental health service users is about twice as high in men compared to women. Between 2006 and 2016, the total patient suicide rate decreased from 98 per 100,000 mental health service users to a projected 52 per 100,000 service users. Note that data in the most recent years are projected; please see 'About this data' for more information.

Updated October 2018.

About this data

The National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health (NCISH) suicide rates differ from ONS rates because they base their figures on date of death rather than the date when the death was registered. In addition, the figures include people aged 10-14 and are not age-standardised, i.e. they are not adjusted to reflect differences in the age of the population.

Completeness of the data is lower in the more recent years reported, reflecting the time required to receive and process the data. For example, in 2014, 2015 and 2016 completeness for England is 89%, 85% and 73% respectively. For these years, therefore, they projected the number of total patient cases based on the expected final return of NCISH questionnaires for the previous eight years (2006-2013). For more information, please see the NCISH Annual Report 2018.


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