HEALTH professionals have set up a group with the aim of reducing the number of suicides in Berkshire by 25 per cent by 2020.
Figures show that a total of 68 people took their own lives in the county in 2015, six of those in West Berkshire.
Nationally, three in every four deaths by suicide are by men, with the highest rate in England among males aged 45 to 49.
In Berkshire, 70 per cent of the deaths recorded between 2007 and 2014 were aged between 30 and 59.
In a bid to reduce the numbers, The Berkshire Suicide Prevention Steering Group has been formed.
As well as prevention, the group want to ensure that better support is provided for those bereaved or affected by suicide.
In a report, Dr Lise Llewellyn, strategic director of public health at Public Health Services Berkshire, said: “Suicide is a devastating event.
“It is an individual tragedy, a life-altering crisis for those bereaved and a traumatic event for communities and services.
“The impacts are immediately and profoundly distressing.”
In the report, Dr Llewellyn adds: “The NHS Five Year Forward View for Mental Health sets a target on all NHS agencies and partners to reduce the current level of suicide by 10 per cent by 2020.
“This is a laudable and hopefully readily achievable aim.
“However, as discussions across the range of organisations which have contributed to this strategy have progressed, it appears to many that this aim is not challenging enough.
“Zero suicide should be our aim; as it is in the gift of the combined efforts of these organisations, and of society at large, to put in place the policies and services which protect people from mental distress, and to ease the factors which cause that distress.
“This strategy therefore forges ahead with an ambitious stretch target to reduce suicide by at least 25 per cent by 2020.
“We recognise that a Berkshire without suicide is the true aim we work towards.”
The report goes on to say: “For every person who dies by suicide, at least 10 people are directly affected.
“Support for those bereaved, including the professionals who deal with the suicide, is vitally important.
“The social and economic cost of a suicide is substantial.
“The average cost of suicide in someone of working age in England is estimated to be £1.67m.
“This includes direct costs of care, indirect costs relating to loss of productivity and earnings, and the intangible costs associated with pain, grief and suffering of those bereaved or affected by suicide.”
The group also wants to raise awareness of mental health through anti-bullying campaigns in schools; addressing stigma and social isolation in older people; workplace health promotion and support with local business and working with police on mental health literacy.
Local suicide prevention planning is the responsibility of local authority public health teams to deliver with clinical commissioning groups, health and wellbeing boards and a wider network of partners.