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Mental health patient suicides increase

Suicides among mental health patients being treated at home have increased, figures released today show. 

Economic difficulties were cited as a possible reason for the increase by researchers from the University of Manchester, who produced the report. 

The National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness (NCI) claims a renewed focus on helping mental health patients with debts, and housing or employment problems is needed. 

'Complex' reasons

However the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) believes the reasons for an increase in suicides are “highly complex”. 

Janet Davies, RCN executive director of nursing and service delivery said: “Nurses will be very concerned about the rising number of people who are committing suicide while being treated at home. 

“The government, NHS and clinicians must work together to understand as much as possible about how these tragedies can be prevented.” 

Figures for 2011 showed 1,333 suicides in mental health patients in England, up from 1,175 in 2010. 

Patient suicide in Scotland also rose significantly, but increases in Wales and Northern Ireland were based on a small sample, which should be “treated with caution” according to the researchers. 

'Dramatic drop'

Safer patient care has led to a dramatic drop in the number of people killed by mental health patients.

The number of homicides is now at the lowest level in ten years, with experts citing better treatment of drug and alcohol problems as the cause. 

There were 33 murders or manslaughters committed by mental health patients in England in 2010 - the lowest figure since records began in 1997. 

A similar fall was found for homicide by people with schizophrenia in England and for people with symptoms of mental illness at the time of offence. 

Professor Louis Appleby, director of the National Confidential Inquiry, said:  “It is welcome news that patient homicides are falling and reflects well on the safety measures taken by mental health staff. 

“These are early trends and the precise causes are unknown but they may reflect better care for “dual diagnosis” patients - those with both mental illness and alcohol or drug misuse.”