Recession blamed for suicide rise across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent
THE recession has been blamed for a huge rise in the number of suicides.
North Staffordshire coroner Ian Smith dealt with 29 suicide cases during the first half of this year.
That number compares with 25 for the whole of last year, 36 in 2010 and 21 in 2009.
The vast majority were men aged between 40 and 60 who had lost their jobs or suffered marriage breakdowns.
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Citizens Advice Bureau experts say there is a direct link between the faltering economy and an increase in people taking their own lives.
Now Mr Smith has called in NHS bosses to look at what can be done to prevent future tragedies.
The area's two clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have in turn asked Mr Smith for data on suicides to help identify those most at risk.
Mr Smith said: "Inquests are held some time after an unnatural death and it cannot be classed as a suicide until a verdict has been reached.
"Therefore, these figures do not necessarily represent what is happening this year. Nevertheless, it is a worrying trend and we have made the CCGs aware of it. They in turn have asked us to share the data with them to help their analysis.
"With suicides, I always feel the deepest sympathy for the family and friends left behind. To take one's own life is a very introspective action and people do not think about the effect it will have on their nearest and dearest."
Advice experts fear the spiral of despair will continue as the benefit system is reformed.
Simon Harris, chief executive of Stoke-on-Trent Citizens' Advice Bureau, said: "Many people who have had financial problems for three or four years find it is not getting any better and some snap.
"Massive changes in the incapacity benefits system are adding to the problem, with some people losing £90 a week."
All but two of last year's 25 suicides were men.
Officials at North Staffordshire's mental health trust, Combined Healthcare, say it is important to look at cases where victims were not already receiving mental health services.
Operations director Steve Gregory said: "We are working to provide the best support possible to people. This includes reviewing the way our services are delivered through the current consultation.
"Evidence indicates improved home treatment and earlier access to services improve outcomes."