Health

Paramedic callouts to suicides or attempted suicides in London double in a year



Paramedics are being sent to almost 40 suicides or attempted suicides a day in London – double the number a year ago – amid concerns about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health.

The shock figures from London Ambulance Service come as a documentary will tonight show the devastating impact of suicide on a mother who dials 999 after finding her 36-year-old son hanging.

Scenes to be broadcast on the BBC1 series Ambulance, at 9pm, show a LAS call-handler advise the woman, Ursula, to give chest compressions to her son, Daniel. He cannot be saved, and she is comforted by paramedics.


Latest LAS data shows that crews have been called to 6,846 suicide emergencies between April and September – an average of 37 a day.

This compares with 8,030 for the 12 months of the 2019/20 year – an average of 22 a day. Five years ago the daily average in London was 17.

It is not known whether the dramatic rise in suicides is linked to the pandemic but last week LAS said it had seen an increase in the number of mental health calls during lockdown, with mental health now being a factor in more than one in 10 of all emergency calls.

The biggest number of suicide calls since April has related to young men aged 21-25 – a total of 878 cases.

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Kevin, an advanced paramedic who comforts Ursula, said: “I have certainly seen an increase in suicide over the past 20 years. The majority of them tend to be male.

“You feel an empathy for the family members for what they are going through and the heartache they are going to suffer. We haven’t found all the answers in dealing with mental health.”

It is thought the average of 37 suicide calls a day may underestimate the full extent of the crisis in London, as it does not include incidents such as falls from height or drug overdoses, both of which may include people attempting to take their own life.

There were 5,691 suicides in England and Wales in 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics, with the male rate at the highest level since 2000.

In London, there were 616 suicides in 2019 – down from 661 in 2018.

LAS chief executive Garrett Emmerson said: “Tonight viewers will see some of the very distressing calls we get and the devastating impact on the patient’s family but also the impact on our crews and call handlers.

“I’m so proud of the care and compassion shown to every single one of our patients. This year more than ever we need to recognise the terrible toll poor mental health can have and ensure our patients – and our own people – can access the support and care they need.”

For help, visit the Samaritans website at https://www.samaritans.org/ or call 116 123.

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