A person takes their own life every 17 days in Preston – putting the city’s suicide rate above the national average.
The heartbreaking revelation comes from new statistics showing that 21 people died by suicide in the city in 2018.
The data, from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), measures Preston’s suicide rate at 12.3 per 100,000 people in the city area – above both the North West rate of 10.4 and the national average of 11.2.
The increase was also the first increase in the last six years – with 2017 figures recording 10 suicides.
Responding to the data, Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland said: “Every single one of these deaths is a tragedy that devastates families, friends and communities.
“While the overall rise has only been seen this year, and we hope it is not the start of a longer-term trend, it’s crucial to have a better understanding of why there has been such an increase.
“We know that suicide is not inevitable, it is preventable and encouraging steps have been made to prevent suicide, but we need to look at suicide as a serious public health issue.
“We have known for many years that suicide is a gender and inequality issue with middle-aged men in disadvantaged communities most at risk.
“Yet, we still don’t have a comprehensive, cross-departmental government workplan that prioritises clear actions on how to reach the two-thirds of people who die by suicide who are not in touch with mental health services.”
Work has taken place in the city in the last 12 months to help those in crisis.
At Preston Bus Station there are now barriers on every floor of the car park as part of Lancashire County Council’s redevelopment of the iconic landmark.
Similarly, Preston Council has said work is taking place at Avenham car park on top of already installing CCTV, life rings, and Samaritans posters at Preston Docks.
The progress has come following a 2018 report by the council’s Suicides in Preston Task and Finish Group, which recommended a number of changes including CCTV monitoring of suicide hotspots.
“The rise in the number of suicides and incidents of mental health is alarming, and as a council we must do all we can in terms of prevention and signposting people to the help they need,” said Preston Coun Whitney Hawkins, Member Champion for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention.
“Progress has been made by the Task and Finish Group in implementing the report’s recommendations, and work continues in the background to do even more, depending on resources and funding.
“Our officer representatives on the Behaviour Change Partnership also continue to work with a wide range of suicide, bereavement and support services.”
This all comes as Preston will tomorrow remember those who have died by suicide.
To raise awareness and to remember those that have died and are bereaved by suicide, city folk are encouraged to participate in a 40-second silence on Preston Flag Market, taking place at 11.40am, 12.40pm, 1.40pm and 2.40pm.
In Lancashire and South Cumbria as a whole, the suicide rates are the third highest in England.
To address this, a partnership of NHS, local authority, police, public sector, education and businesses is working to reduce suicide and demonstrate that we all can make a difference.
And the Preston Flag Market event will mark the launch of a campaign to tackle male suicide.
The campaign – dubbed Let’s Talk to Prevent Male Suicide – will encourage businesses and communities across Lancashire and South Cumbria to support managers, colleagues, family and friends to talk to prevent suicide.
The concept of the 40 second silence was developed for World Suicide Prevention Day in 2018 by Tony Harrison, a father bereaved by suicide.
Tony, from Blackburn, has been campaigning to raise awareness of suicide and to tackle the stigma and myths that surround it.
To mark World Suicide Prevention Day and the 40-second silence, a logo has been designed by Lancashire tattoo artist Nathan Haworth.
Tony said: “Hopefully the logo will resonate with people and become instantly recognisable which in turn will raise awareness of suicide.”
Louise Thomas, suicide prevention lead for Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System, said: “We know that suicide is a complex issue and it is vital for people to come together and recognise that suicide prevention is everyone’s business.
“Men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women – and listening is more powerful than you think.
“By bringing people together at Preston Flag Market, we hope to raise awareness and encourage people to talk about suicide.”
• If you’re struggling to cope then call Samaritans on 116 123.