Session 3: Registered Suicides

By Rebecca Musgrove and Lana Bojanić.

Suicide Registrations Data

Dr Ben Windsor-Shellard, Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Dr Windsor-Shellard pointed out that possible inconsistency in the ONS data can stem from the registration delay between date of death and date of registration of death (i.e. 152 days on average in England) and recent changes in the way narrative verdicts have been used by coroners and the ONS.  

He again singled out data linkage as the best way to address gaps in data; an example being recent linkage with the Higher Education student database to identify student suicides. Also, a current piece of work linking the census records to mortality records will help to identify variation in suicides by ethnicity.


Challenges and opportunities for using national suicide mortality statistics to investigate secular trends and area differences in suicide

Prof David Gunnell, University of Bristol.

Prof Gunnell presented data which show an association between changes in suicide rates and wider societal factors, such as an economic recession. In addition he discussed data which link media reporting of suicide by celebrities and a rise in suicide rates, for example data showed an estimated 10% upturn in suicide above what would be expected at the immediate time period following Robin Williams death.

Alongside these trends he focused on the impact of changes in the way that suicide is coded and inconsistencies in timing and recording of suicide. In particular he pointed out changes in recording of narrative deaths and the difficulties that ONS have in coding these. Although these verdicts have dropped over recent years, there is still a lack of consistency between coroners’ verdicts across the country.


National Confidential Inquiry for Suicide and Safety in Mental Health services (NCISH)

Prof Louis Appleby, University of Manchester.

Prof Appleby presented data from NCISH, focusing on those in contact with Mental Health Services in the 12 months prior to death from 2006 to 2016.  The limitations that the inquiry faces include the lack of a comparison groups as well as changing denominators. Over time there has been a big increase in those in contact with mental health services. This is important contextual information which is worth considering when interpreting rates of suicide and self-harm amongst mental health services patients.

He also presented data on suicide in young people. Although this group has a lower risk of suicide than other groups, the risk of suicide increases most sharply from mid to late teens.


Autism and autistic traits in those who died by suicide in the UK

Dr Sarah Cassidy, University of Nottingham.

Dr Cassidy focussed on Mental Health and suicide in Autistic people and highlighted the lack of research in this area. Her research focused on the “lost generation” of adults with autism who were often only diagnosed in adulthood. Findings indicate that women with autism seem to be more at risk than men, in contrast with gender difference in suicide amongst the general population. She also talked about a study applying psychological autopsy methods to identify autistic people who died by suicide and to understand if people with autism are over-represented.  This talk further highlighted the importance (and difficulty) of being able to identify potential high-risk groups through data so that tailored interventions can be put in place.


>> Continue reading Session 4: Healthcare Context.


Rebecca Musgrove (@beckymus) is currently researching for a PhD in Epidemiology with a focus on suicide and self-harm for people who have recently been discharged from mental health inpatient care. She is also a Senior Analyst in Mental Health at NHS England (Rebecca.musgrove@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk).

Lana Bojanić (@BojanicLana) has a Master’s degree in psychology and is a Research Assistant at the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health, University of Manchester (lana.bojanic-2@manchester.ac.uk).


Featured Image: Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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