New figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown the suicide rate in Great Britain has fallen by 4.7 per cent in the last year. Mental health campaigners have hailed this as a testament to the important impact suicide prevention work is having.

The latest figures have shown that 3.4% fewer people completed suicide in 2016 (5,688) – down from 5,870 in 2015. This represents the lowest suicide rate since 2011. While suicide rates fell for both sexes, the difference was greater for women. Men still represent around three quarters of people lost to suicide, with middle-aged men still at the greatest risk of suicide.

Of the suicides registered in 2016, 4,287 were male and 1,381 were female. The new figures released this week showed the suicide rate fell by 3.1% for males and 9.4% for females. Relationship breakdown was highlighted as a key cause of suicide, with divorced men at the highest risk. In 2015 men who were divorced were almost three times more likely to complete suicide than men who were married or in a civil partnership.

Ruth Sutherland, CEO of the suicide prevention charity Samaritans, said: “Even though a fall in suicides compared with the previous year is welcome, 5,668 people dying in Great Britain in one year is still too high. (…) Every suicide is a tragedy leaving devastation in its wake. These figures emphasise the urgency with which we as a society need to work together to prevent needless loss of life.”

The ONS said the fall in suicides was most likely due to prevention work by the government, the NHS, charities and the British Transport Police.

Reacting to the recently released statistics, Poppy Jaman, CEO Mental Health First Aid England, commented: “Mental Health First Aid teaches people to spot the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and to feel able to start a supportive conversation – most importantly we don’t shy away from addressing the issue of suicide on our courses. We are committed to working to spread the important message that it is OK to talk about how you are feeling and ask for support when you need it.”

These results highlight that whilst suicide prevention work is having an impact, there’s still a long way to go to support people experiencing a mental health issue. Mental Health First Aid training can be an important part of a whole community approach to supporting mental health. It won’t teach you to be a therapist – but just like physical first aid, it will teach you to listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis – and even potentially stop a crisis from happening.