A FRESH action plan is being drawn up to avert suicides in an area where residents are 36 per cent more likely to kill themselves than elsewhere in England.

Darlington’s health and wellbeing board is set to consider a range of actions to introduce “a whole system approach to suicide prevention” in the borough after it emerged the suicide rate per 100,000 population is 13.1 compared to the England average of 9.6.

A report to the board also stated Darlington’s suicide rate is the highest in the North-East except Middlesbrough and higher than almost all areas considered socio-economically similar, such as Derby, Plymouth and Bolton.

In addition, the report details how Darlington’s suicide rate has persistently remained above the national average for the last two decades. It states of the 29 people took their own life in Darlington over the past three years 79 per cent were male, 76 per cent were aged between 40 and 69 years, 38 per cent were employed at the time of their death and 83 per cent were single.

While the report clearly leads to questions over why the suicide rate in the borough has remained significantly higher than average, Darlington Borough Council public health officers said given the small number of cases, it is “not possible to draw any statistically significant trends or to rely on this data to exclusively identify those groups most at risk or the most significant contributing factors”.

They said the authority had received NHS England funding to support a national target of a 20 per cent reduction in suicides. Funding was made available this year to support organisations across Darlington to deliver projects that supported the aims of the Darlington Suicide Prevention plan. Projects included the development of a Men’s Shed, mental health awareness training, bespoke support groups and support and access into employment. Decisions on funding for projects for the coming year are set to be decided.

Public health officers said the funding will also be used to develop a whole system approach to tackling the issue so that key partners including the private sector, schools, Department of Work and Pensions and voluntary sector are enabled to raise awareness, build resilience and inform their workforce, clients and wider community.

They added there is strong evidence to show those bereaved by suicide are more at risk of suicide themselves, so part of local action planning would consider how family and friends are supported with the right information and advice.

l To contact Darlington Samaritans, call 116 123 free from any phone. For details about the Rapid Response Suicide Prevention Service, e-mail Darlington Mind at contactus@darlingtonmind.com or call 01325-283169.