Almost one in four people who die by suicide in Hertfordshire have talked about their mental health at their doctor’s surgery in the four weeks before their death, new figures suggest.

And, according to the figures, one in three of those who take their own lives in the county were already known to mental health services.

The figures relate to the 74 suicide verdicts in Hertfordshire recorded by the coroner in 2017, predominantly relating to deaths in 2016.

And they are the focus of the county council’s latest suicide audit, which has just been presented to the council’s public health and prevention cabinet panel.

The audit shows that the number of suicides in Hertfordshire is “relatively small” and that the rate is significantly lower than the national figure.

And it reveals that mental health issues are the most common risk factor mentioned in the coroner’s files.

In line with national figures, most are men aged between 40 and 59. And a third of people who died by suicide were known to have made a previous attempt.

It also points to the recent contacts with a member of a GP practice and links to mental health services.

“The review of the coroner’s records undertaken for the audit showed, with hindsight, that there remain opportunities to identify and support people at risk of suicide,” says the report to the cabinet panel.

“The continued challenge is to spot and act on these signs, for individuals, for communities, and for the services across Hertfordshire.”

The detail of the audit reports that 62 per cent of those who died by suicide had a mental health issue that had been recorded by their GP; 23 per cent had discussed mental health with a member of their GP practice within four weeks of their death; and 16 per cent had contacted their GP practice in the week before their death.

It also shows that 41 per cent of those who died through suicide were know to a mental health service; 33 per cent had been in contact in the week before their death; and 63 per cent had been in touch in their last four weeks.

A further audit for 2018 – focussing predominantly on deaths that occurred in 2017 – is already being compiled.

It is hoped that continuing to complete the audits – which are no longer a statutory requirement – will help to identify any trends.

And those findings will be used to inform a revision of the Hertfordshire Suicide Prevention Strategy.

  • If you are depressed or considering harming yourself, call Samaritans free from any phone on 116 123 or at 01923 233333 (local call charges apply).