Seaside town's suicide rate prompts call for action

Professor Chris Whitty has highlighted high suicide rates and mental health issues in Suffolk

Professor Chris Whitty has highlighted high suicide rates and mental health issues in Suffolk - Credit: Archant/PA

Clacton has been highlighted in a national report into health inequalities after it was revealed the town has one of the highest suicide rates in the country.

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty visited Clacton last year to gain further insight into his annual report, which this year focuses on health in local communities and is now calling for a national plan to improve the health of those living in seaside towns.

The findings, filed by Dr Mike Gogarty, director of public health at Essex County Council, highlight high prevalence of mental health issues in Clacton and flag the high suicide rate as cause for concern.

Unemployment rates in Jaywick are as high as 50% among those aged between 16 and 64

Unemployment rates in Jaywick are as high as 50% among those aged between 16 and 64 - Credit: PA

The town has the second highest level of mental health needs in England, with the "mood and anxiety disorders indicator" showing the town has a higher demand for mental health support than the likes of Redcar and Cleveland.

Self-harm hospital admission ratios for people from the town are significantly higher than the Essex and Tendring averages, while Tendring district had the second highest suicide rate in the country in 2017-2019, reflecting high rates within Clacton itself.


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Dr Gogarty also noted the town has a higher number of preventable deaths among the under 75s – with both cancer and circulatory disease death ratios greater than the England, Tendring and Essex averages.

Addressing the issues, Prof Whitty called for a new national strategy to improve the health and wellbeing of coastal communities.

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A spokesman for Essex County Council said Prof Whitty's report is "warmly welcomed" by the council as it will help "attract national focus on local issues".

The spokesman said: "Most issues in Clacton arise from the increasing difficulty local people are having in finding good local well-paid work and addressing this is a key priority for all local partners.

“Achievement on this front is needed if we are to tackle the underlying cause and not just the symptoms.”

Both the county council and Tendring District Council have invested in projects to help level up inequalities.

A £12.7million investment into the town centre was confirmed last month, while the district council is applying for an additional £20m from the Levelling Up Fund.

Lynda McWilliams of Tendring District Council

Lynda McWilliams of Tendring District Council - Credit: Archant

Lynda McWilliams, Tendring District Council cabinet member for partnerships, said: “Working together with our partners, including the voluntary sector, we are moving forwards to tackle health inequalities and welcome this report for throwing further light on the topic.

“There is never a quick fix when it comes to health, where we often need to change cultures which promote bad health into good ones, and we will continue to work in this area.”

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