A RISING number of men in Reading are losing their lives to suicide, new figures show.

A jump in the national suicide rate has sparked concern among mental health charities, who warn the coronavirus crisis could exacerbate existing risk factors behind the cause of death.

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The latest statistics come ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day, held annually on September 10, which sees organisations come together globally to raise awareness.

Public Health England data shows there were 28 cases of suicide among men or boys aged 10 and over in Reading between 2017 and 2019, the latest period for which data is available.

It means the area's male suicide rate was around 13.8 in every 100,000 men, up from 10.4 between 2016 and 2018.

Men accounted for nearly three-quarters of suicide deaths in Reading over the period.

Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics show that across England and Wales, the overall suicide rate rose to 11 deaths per 100,000 last year, with the rate among males reaching its highest level for two decades – 16.9 deaths per 100,000.

Men aged 45 to 49 had the highest suicide rate, at 25.5 deaths per 100,000 males.

Samaritans said this is a "worrying trend that has persisted for decades", while the ONS added higher rates of suicide among middle-aged men might be due to economic hardship, isolation and alcoholism, with men in this category also less likely to seek help.

The figures show the suicide rate for women in England and Wales was 5.3 deaths per 100,000, the highest since 2004.

Brian Dow, deputy CEO of charity Rethink Mental Illness and co-chairman of the National Suicide Prevention Alliance said: “Any death by suicide is a tragedy.

"These statistics represent lives lost and families up and down the country living with unimaginable grief.

"As a society we still have a way to go to make a meaningful impact on bringing down the rate of death by suicide."

Mr Dow added that the reasons leading up to a person’s decision to take their life are complex, but issues such as financial problems and housing instability are "well established factors".

The suicide rate in Reading over the last three years was higher than that across the South East as a whole – 9.9 per 100,000, compared to 9.6.

Samaritans chief executive Ruth Sutherland said callers to its services are now generally more anxious and distressed than before the coronavirus pandemic.

She added: “It is not inevitable that suicide rates will go up as a result of coronavirus, but we know that the pandemic is impacting on lots of people’s lives and exacerbating some known risk factors.

“Volunteers are telling us that many callers have been worried about losing their job and/or business and their finances.

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“Undoubtedly, the pandemic has affected everyone in society, but Samaritans is particularly worried about three groups: people with pre-existing mental health conditions, young people who self-harm, and less well-off middle-aged men.

“Suicide prevention must be a priority right now, so we can save lives."

Contact Samaritans on 116 123 free of charge at any time.