It has been described as a national tragedy which has cost thousands of lives.
In the three decades to 2012, the number of women taking their own lives in Britain halved to around 1300.
But for men, the figure rose to more than 4500.
Between 2013 and 2014, the male suicide figure rose further from 4858 to 6233.
The suicide statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed the greatest gender gulf since records began, with the most worrying trend being a rise in the rate among men aged 40 to 44.
The Samaritans said the increase in men killing themselves was “sadly not surprising” in the context of a “challenging economic environment”.
According to the ONS report research showed unemployment, lack of close social and family relationships and divorce were among the factors which resulted in suicidal behaviour.
Men were more at risk because they are reluctant to seek help, use self-harm methods that are often fatal and are more likely to drink heavily.
However, the suicide rate in Scotland has fallen by almost a fifth in the past decade with 795 probable suicides reported in 2013, 35 fewer than the previous year and a 19% drop since 2002.
The falling numbers of suicides in Scotland have been credited to the Scottish Government’s Choose Life suicide prevention strategy which ran from 2002 to 2013.
Dundee charity Hearing Voices Network (HVN), based on the Hilltown, is one project which aims to erase the stigma of mental illness.
Two full time and several part time staff, plus 50 volunteers, run a network which aims to raise awareness of ‘hearing voices’. Psychiatry refers to hearing voices as ‘auditory hallucinations’ but research has also shown that 70% of people begin to hear voices as a result of extreme stress or trauma.
Support worker Keith Wilson told The Courier the Dundee network can speak to 40 people on a typical day. Whilst offering advice and support, it aims to ‘signpost’ other services. He said: “Our aim is to help voice hearers with mental health diagnosis to live their lives to the best ability they can. We are also open to anyone with mental health issues who wants to improve their lives. To do that we run a variety of activities, training and work placements. We do a lot of creative things like making films, arts, crafts and photography. These are all ways which allow people to express where they are at and what is happening in their lives.”
Keith said the situation had improved but the stigma of mental health was still evident.
He added: “It doesn’t help when people say things inadvertently like ‘that’s mental’ or ‘that’s totally bonkers’. There’s also a misunderstanding that because someone might have a mental health issue that they might also be mentally deficient. It can take family and friends a while to read up.”
Keith noted that high profile figures from history had been diagnosed with mental illness including Winston Churchill, Gandhi and actor Anthony Hopkins.
He added: “It’s not all doom and gloom. Our aim is to show that with more awareness, sufferers of mental health issues can lead successful lives.”
One member of the Dundee HVN user-led network is Douglas (not his real name) who was seven-years-old in 1977 when he became aware that he ‘heard voices’, and had suicidal thoughts.
Douglas remembers hearing at least four distinct voices, one of which was much stronger than the others.
His parents were both registered general nurses who worked in a local mental hospital, referred to by locals as a ‘loony bin’.
To a seven-year-old boy the idea that he suffered from a mental illness was scary and confusing, so he kept it quiet.
What no-one knew was that he was hiding depression, anxiety, including fleeting suicidal thoughts, and the older he became the better at hiding the symptoms of mental illness he became.
In 2000, aged 30, he suffered a severe panic attack during a poster presentation in his third year at Abertay University Dundee.
He was prescribed an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) antidepressant.
Douglas suffered severe adverse drug reactions to this antidepressant from the outset.
The suicidal symptoms eventually went away and the symptoms of anxiety and depression seemed to ebb away, but this was short lived.
His GP increased the dose of the antidepressant, and did so increasingly until Douglas was on the maximum dose of 60mg which caused severe headaches, night sweats, and weird dreams that he could control, something he had never had the ability to do before.
Douglas was referred to a psychiatrist who thought that he would be able to withdraw from the addictive antidepressant by prescribing the short acting Benzodiazepine Lorazepam at a dose of 1mg.
After various drug switches, his GP eventually told him that he needed to withdraw from the drug because Benzodiazepines were very addictive.
By May 2005 and with little medical support, Douglas started entertaining the idea that he wouldn’t be missed.
The suicidal dark impulses grew to such an extent that all he could think about was the negative voices instructing him to kill himself, and that he wouldn’t be missed if he did kill himself.
But then Douglas heard a positive voice which told him of the impact his suicide would have on family, much like the impact his cousin’s suicide had on family the year before.
Douglas discussed with a psychiatrist that he had become suicidal due to Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms.
To this day, 10 years on Douglas is still acutely addicted to Benzodiazepines and remains at risk from further suffering suicidal thoughts.
However, with support, he is determined not to become another government suicide statistic.