Cuts have seen rapid suicide increase in Islington – says psychologist

Dr Melinda Rees

Dr Melinda Rees - Credit: Archant

Cuts to the benefits system have coincided with a dramatic increase in the number of suicides in Islington, a senior psychologist has claimed.

Dr Melinda Rees, a consultant clinical psychologist, said the number of people taking their own lives in the borough has risen significantly – in the same week it was revealed that one in four adults in Islington suffers from mental illness.

The stark warning came days before a man was killed in a fall from the notorious Archway Bridge – bringing the total number of deaths at the site to four this year and eight since October 2010.


Dr Rees, who works for the borough’s psychological therapy services, said: “Out of the 9,000 referrals we receive each year, about one third of our patients will have suicidal thoughts – maybe more.

“The suicide rate has increased in Islington this year. When the government made cuts to the benefits system in March this year we noticed a significant peak in the number of suicides in the borough. Unfortunately, the Archway Bridge has become notorious for this.”

She added: “The patients I’ve seen this week are all talking about being lonely at Christmas. It’s the comparison – they have the image in their head that everyone is cosied up by the fire with their families and there are lots of presents. And they just wake up on Christmas Day on their own.

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“Unfortunately, a lot of people are in this situation in Islington. Christmas can feel incredibly isolating for people.”

A recent publication by New Economics Foundation (NEF) paints a grim picture of the borough. Mental health is cited as a huge problem. Thirteen per cent of people have depression – compared with eight per cent in the rest of London, with suicide a more common result of mental health than elsewhere.

Dr Rees said rates of depression among women were higher than normal.

“I worked on a research project in Islington and found that this depression was passed down from successive generations of women.”

Cllr Janet Burgess, Islington Council’s executive member for health and wellbeing, said: “We have joined a national campaign to tackle very high levels of poor mental health across the borough. Tackling this notable inequality will help us make the borough a fairer place.”

n Anyone suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, or family members who are concerned their relatives might be, are urged to call the Samaritans in confidence on 08457 90 90 90 or visit Volunteer counsellors are on the end of the line 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.