As a society we are constantly concerned with crime rates and how safe we feel on the streets. If we read many national newspapers we get the feeling we are being besieged by runaway crime statistics (even if crime appears to actually be declining). Politicians on all sides seek to exploit the public’s concerns ie) David Cameron circa 2010 general election. (Cooper, B, 2010; Tarleton, A, 2010)
Murder rates in England and Wales are running at around 1.28 homicides per 100,000 people in 2009, (the US at 5 per 100,000). The total number of murders in Scotland in 2009 to 2010 was 79 and in England and Wales 619 (total 698) (Scottish government website, 2010, Travis, A 2011)
Vast amounts of money are spent on law enforcement as a result of our fears of crime, and many of us would agree that this money is largely well spent.
Similarly, deaths on our roads continues to decrease and this has decreased again in 2009 to 2,222 falling 12%. This is all good news, and much has been spent to drive these figures down. Many campaigns showing how children can be badly hurt and the links between speed and deaths. Much money (and points on licenses) have been applied to achieve safer roads with many speed cameras on our country’s roads. Of course many more are injured on our roads.(Department for transport website, 2010)
So much money spent and so much public concern and sometimes even paranoia, yet if I had a conversation stating that I was concerned with the second biggest killer of males in the UK, and that the amount of deaths from this cause was 5,706 in 2008. 17.7 per 100,000 for males and 5.5 per 100,000 for females would people say “we must do something about this”? (ONS website, 2009)
Lets go over this again, there is a cause of death that is the second biggest killer of males and more people die from it than the amount of people who die from road traffic accidents and murder combined.
So what is it??? If I said it was a form of cancer no doubt a cry for better testing or shortening waiting lists would deafen us. What if it were heart disease? Surely more deafening cries. If I said SUICIDE, what would our reaction be?
That’s right suicide.
I don’t hear the deafening call any more. I don’t hear the calls for more to be spent on mental health services even though approximately 1 in 4 people will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime. I don’t hear politicians calling for the ring fencing of mental health services or how it is a national disgrace that so many people die from suicide.
Of course these figures like any will not be entirely accurate, many suicides even today are covered up due to the embarrassment and stigma society heaps upon this act. Doctors and coroners would prefer to not declare that death be due to suicide for the families sake. But the figures are bad enough.
I doubt if in any election for the fore-seeable future politicians will be discussing the need for more intervention/money spent to prevent suicide even though suicides are set to rise further in the difficult economic times ahead.
Suicides and attempted suicides come from the hidden depths of our society, acts that should not be talked about in open society or polite company.
It’s a great sound bite to say law and order or policing is a priority, or that to put traffic humps in urban areas is a sensible way of spending resources, these are easily voiced policy ideas that people can easily get their heads round. The unhappiness of our society, mental health and a growing underclass is a lot harder to discuss let alone do something about. It’s too difficult for the limited skills of our politicians.
I wonder how many deaths would make politicians and society sit up and take notice? Or maybe I am just getting paranoid.
DFT, (2010), Reported road casualties main results 2009, [online], DFT website, available at http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/statistics/datatablespublications/accidents/casualtiesmr/rrcgb
Cooper, B, (2010), David Cameron made to look very foolish over his claim violent crime is rising, [online], Liberal Twitter Hound website, available at http://bencooper86.wordpress.com/2010/01/23/bbc-news-made-david-cameron-look-very-foolish-over-his-claim-violent-crime-is-rising/
ONS, (2009), Suicides: UK suicides increase in 2008, [online], ONS website, available at http://www.statistics.gov.uk/CCI/nugget.asp?ID=1092&Pos=&ColRank=1&Rank=358
Scottish Government website, (2010), Homicide, [online], available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Crime-Justice/TrendHom
Tarleton, A, (2010), Did Cemeron get violent crime figures right?, [onlie], Channel 4 news website, available at http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/did-cameron-get-his-violent-crime-statistics-right/3056
Travis, A, (2009), Murders drop to lowest level for 20 years in England and Wales, [online], Guardian website, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jan/21/murders-drop-home-office-figures
Travis, A, (2011), Murder rate lowest for 12 years, [online], Guardian website, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jan/20/murder-rate-lowest-12-years