AN investigation is being launched in a bid to discover why Preston has become the suicide capital of England.
The city was identified as having the highest number of suicides per 100,000 of population compared to other towns or cities in England - with Blackpool not far behind.
Across Lancashire concern is growing over the county’s soaring suicide rate. There were 471 suicides in Lancashire between 2012 and 14.
Today, in the first of a three-day special report, the Evening Post investigates why and speaks to those whose lives have been turned upside down by suicide and attempted suicide.
Jane Booth, chairman of the independent Lancashire Safeguarding Adults Board, who is leading calls for more research, said: “We really need to look at whether there is more we could or should be doing.”
Preston Council has given the go-ahead for a scrutiny review of suicide rates in the city.
It is hoped an investigation panel made up of 16 councillors will begin work soon and councillors hope they will be able to make recommendations on how to reduce suicide rates.
The inquiry comes as the county faces major cuts to public health spending amid a growing awareness of the need for preventative work to catch mental health problems before they escalate.
Scrutiny committee chairman Coun Neil Cartwright said: “We should all be concerned that there are so many suicides.
“Why is Preston worse than other places? The statistics are there but what do they mean?”
Preston’s unique characteristics will be explored during the investigation.
It will look at the city’s high student population as well as physical structures like railways and large buildings that could impact on the figures.
Wider issues such as the job market and unemployment, areas of deprivation and availability of help will also be under scrutiny.
But while the investigation is welcomed, some fear cuts to public sector spending could make the situation even worse in future unless more is done now. It is known that around 70 per cent of those ending their own lives will have had no contact with health or help services.
Jane Booth, chairman of the independent watchdog Lancashire’ Safeguarding Adult and Children’s Boards, is spearheading the demand for more research into and analysis of causes of
She is also calling for a boost in preventative work and says looming cuts in public health funding are a major cause for concern.
She welcomes news that the county will get a share of national fund with extra funds ploughed into mental health services by 2020, but warns that overall its predicted Lancashire will see an £803m shortfall in its public service funding budget by then.
She said: “It’s a very complex picture. Some things are really at risk. I’m going to Lancashire’s Health and Wellbeing Board and will be asking them to initiate some analysis around the statistics and services to better see whether or not the Suicide Prevention Strategy is robust enough.”
Lancashire County Council is in the process of preparing a new Suicide Prevention Plan. County Coun Azhar Ali, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “We’re working closely with the NHS, charities and other organisations.”