Suicide affects all communities in the UK. On average 17 people die by suicide every day. And it affects young people the most: suicide is the leading cause of death for men under the age of 49 and women under 34 (Office for National Statistics, 2017).
Suicide is preventable. Numerous public, private and voluntary organisations play an important role in suicide prevention. We believe insurers can work together with suicide prevention experts to also help in this important societal issue. Combining the know-how, time and resources of insurers with experts from the suicide prevention field, we aim to contribute to reducing the problem of suicide in the working population. Help us to make a difference. We want to save as many lives as possible; even if we save one life it will be worth it.
To demonstrate how we could have a real impact, National Rail recently worked with the Samaritans and came up with the simple idea of putting Samaritans helpline posters at the end of train platforms. They also trained station staff on how to look out for ‘red flags’ and created the ‘Brew Monday’ tea bag initiative – encouraging people to talk to each other. This saw a reduction in suicides on the rail lines by 20%. Pretty impressive for a relatively low-cost initiative which also saved National Rail millions of pounds each year.
Mapo Bridge, over the Han River in Seoul, South Korea, was dubbed the ‘Bridge of Death’: between 2007 and 2012, more than 100 people attempted suicide from the Bridge. The Seoul City government worked with Samsung Life Insurance, psychologists and suicide prevention specialists. They added interactive handrails along the bridge, with motion sensors to detect people's movements, and light up inspirational messages. The suicide rate from Mapo Bridge dropped 77% in the first year. The bridge has become a popular walking spot and is now known as the ‘Bridge of Life’ (YouTube video).
The cost of suicide to society is incalculable, with the largest component being the intangible human costs experienced by families. The cost of a suicide for someone of working age in the UK is estimated to exceed £1.6 million (Knapp et al, 2014). In the life insurance context we estimate the UK insurance industry pays out over £100m in death claims each year.