THOSE most at risk of taking their own lives in Swindon are being forsaken at their lowest ebb by a flawed care system, a charity has claimed in the wake of news that the town’s suicide rate more than doubled over the last eight years.
New figures released by the council revealed that 26 suicides were reported in 2012 compared to 11 in 2005.
There was a consistent rise every year, except 2011, during that time peroid in Swindon.
Evidence suggested, a local authority report said, that there was a link between the recent national rise in suicide rates and the financial crisis that began in 2008, particularly with regard to unemployment.
Yet despite a recent drive to boost prevention, identifying those most at risk and cross-agency work in Swindon to ensure they don’t fall through cracks in the system, little progress has been made according to mental health charity Service Users Network Swindon (SUNS).
The organisation, which supports mental health patients and set up its own dedicated night-time helpline, said the figures were unsurprising as patients often felt they could not trust the very services supposed to care for them.
Chairman Ann Mooney, who suffers from mental health issues herself and is under the constant supervision of a carer, said: “I’m not surprised at all by the figures. We get between 50 and 150 calls every night on our phone line from people who feel suicidal.
“We listen to them. They all tell us they’ve called the mental health service’s crisis team but they were useless. Often what they do is just call the police.
“I called them myself once at 7pm and I got a call back at 12.02am. Someone could die during that time. There just was nobody for me to talk to.”
According to information collated on around 85 people who committed suicide between 2006 and 2012 by Swindon Suicide Audit, 69 per cent were male, aged 42 on average and 88 per cent were white British.
The council report, to be presented to members of the health overview and scrutiny committee today, proposes putting in place a closer partnership between agencies and the health service to increase work with at risk groups.
An AWP spokesman said: “AWP investigates all unexpected deaths to learn any lessons to improve patient safety. Increases in Swindon’s numbers most likely reflect the recent national increase in suicide rates.
“We promote a suicide prevention culture across all our services. In Swindon, we are working with GPs and other frontline partner agencies to ensure that people who self- harm receive the support they need.”