The aim of our research was to undertake a detailed assessment of a sample of all (community and institutional) suicides by hanging in a defined geographical area over a 6-month period, focusing on potentially preventable aspects of these deaths. The context for the research was the rise in suicides by hanging in England and Wales (Gunnell et al, 2005) and the National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England (Department of Health, 2002). Of note, rates of suicide by hanging have not increased among men or women aged 65 years and over (Gunnell et al, 2005). Although generally Office for National Statistics figures for England and Wales from the 1970s onwards show that rates per 100 000 for deaths by hanging were higher in those aged 65 and over compared with rates in other age groups, this is not the case from 2000 onward when rates for death by hanging increased in the 15- to 44-year age group and decreased among those aged 65 and over (Gunnell et al, 2005).
The Editor decided that our paper should be resubmitted as a short report. The limited space did not enable us to give a full breakdown of the distribution of age, gender, race, social class, etc. of all of our sample. In response to the concern of Drs Salib and Theophanous we can confirm that 13 (8.0%) of the 162 cases in our study were aged over 65 years. Furthermore, 19 (11.7%) were aged under 25 years and 139 (85.8%) were male.
For those interested in a more detailed account of suicides in psychiatric hospitals and prisons we suggest the following sources: Dooley (1990), Shaw et al (2003), Shaw et al (2004) and Gunnell et al (2005).