Shirley Smith from Great Lumley, founder of If U Care Share, whose son Daniel O'Hare committed suicide five years ago
MONEY worries and benefit cuts could be pushing more people in the North East to the edge, experts said last night.
The warnings came as new figures show the region’s suicide rates are the highest in England.
In 2011, 273 people in the North East took their own lives, an increase of 16% compared to 2010.
Mental health charities said they have seen a marked increase in demand for their services as the recession bites.
They said many people who were already struggling with underlying issues have been pushed into despair by job losses and benefit cuts.
Stuart Dexter, chief executive of Tyneside Mind, said: “We have found a massive increase in demand for our services in the last couple of years, and most of that is down to the economic situation.
“Our Gateshead counselling service used to see around 500 people a year, now it is over 900, at a time when we have faced a £15,000 cut in funding for our services.
“The biggest topic of conversation our staff are reporting is welfare reform and how they are going to live on their reduced benefits.
“And if people find out their job is going to go it is very difficult to keep going. It is very hard to feel optimistic at the moment because there is no job security.
“We’ve seen clients who were well a year ago who are now struggling to go on. There is that kind of despair.”
According to the figures released by the Office for National Statistics, North East coroners brought a verdict of suicide in the deaths of 273 people in 2011. Of those, 218 were men and 55 women.
It gives the region a suicide rate of 12.9 in every 100,000 people, the highest in England. In London, the suicide rate is 8.9, while the national rate is 11.8.
Among men, the region’s suicide rate is a huge 21.5, again the highest in the country, while among women it is 4.7.
In 2010, 235 people committed suicide in the region, a rate of 11.2.