A CUMBRIAN police chief has voiced his concern about a dramatic surge in the number of suspected suicides reported across Cumbria during lockdown and in recent weeks.

Experts nationally have spoken of their fears about the pandemic’s impact on mental health.

But figures obtained exclusively by the News & Star, the sister paper of The Westmorland Gazette, show for the first time worrying evidence that there may been a significant rise in people being driven into self-harm.

According to Cumbria County Council, the average annual number of deaths which were attributable to suicide in the county between 2016 and 2018 was 55.

Yet so far this year Cumbria has seen 45 suspected suicides.

Thus that figure – if formally confirmed by a coroner at a later date – indicates a suicide rate almost double that of recent years.

In July alone, there were 12 suspected suicides.

Andy Slattery, Cumbria Constabulary’s Assistant Chief Constable, said he was so concerned by the figures that he has raised the issue with the county’s Suicide Prevention Group.

He said: “These are deaths which in the early stages appear to be suicides, though that has to be determined by the coroner. But so far in July, there have been 12.

“It’s accelerated over the last few weeks.

“It’s been almost one every other day throughout July. We’re working together with our partner agency, the Suicide Prevention Group in the county, which is looking at this. It’s something we’ve raised as a concern with our partners.”

Where you can seek help:

Papyrus’s HOPELINEUK offers confidential support and advice to children and young people under 35 experiencing suicidal thoughts or to anyone concerned about a young person. Call: 0800 068 4141; or text: 07860 039 967; or email: pat@papyrus-uk.org

The Samaritans: Call 116 123.

The Every Life Matters suicide awareness training is done online by zoom and lasts 60 minutes. If your group is interested interested call Every Life Matters on 07908 537541 or email: info@every-life-matters.org.uk