SUICIDE remains the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK and Stockton Council has pledged to try and do something about it.

The council's latest health strategy for children is to focus on vulnerable young men aged 18 to 25, alongside youngsters aged up to five-years-old. 

Rob White, from the Stockton Education Improvement Service (SEIS), told this week's people select committee how emotional wellbeing issues could start at a young age. But he added males aged 18 to 25 remained the biggest “at risk” group. 

Former Stockton mayor Cllr Eileen Johnson said a “stiff upper lip” attitude still persisted among some young men.

And she referred to a past review carried out by the committee looking into suicide and self harm services in the borough. 

Cllr Johnson added: “I was very interested in the study we did – it was quite heartbreaking.

“It’d be interesting to look at 18 to 25-year-old females as a comparator. 

“We all think we might know the answers but why is it that young men take their own lives but, by and large, young women don’t?

“What is going on there?”

In 2018, levels of suicide and self-harm in the borough were above the national average.

The council committee’s past review urged the government to increase mental health funding as a percentage of the total NHS budget.

It also recommended every local school and college be “strongly encouraged” to have a designated lead in mental health in advance of government targets in 2025.

Hospital admissions for self-harm have headed in the right direction in Stockton for those aged 10 to 24 – with recorded visits halving between 2011/12 and 2017/18. 

But data from Public Health England (PHE) also shows Stockton has a higher recorded prevalence of depression that the national and North-east average – with 14.7% of the population recording the illness in the borough in 2018/19. 

That amounts to 23,367 people in all.

Stockton Council’s children services strategy, which runs to 2020, states emotional wellbeing is a “major issue” for young people. 

The strategy adds: “Self-harm rates are too high and our schools report increasing levels of anxiety, low mood and depression as well as more complex mental health issues. 

“We also know that the emotional health and well-being of children are major concerns for our parents and schools.”

Cllr Barry Woodhouse told the committee “men didn’t talk” and the panel agreed it was a case of trying to get them to open up. 

There are a raft of bodies and services in place in the borough people can go for help. 

The Stockton office of Middlesbrough and Stockton Mind is Marlborough House, 30 Yarm Road, Stockton.

Samaritans can be called 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for free on 116 123.