Understanding suicide


The latest facts and figures on suicide

5219 suicides were registered in 2021. This is 307 more than in 2020*.
Males aged 50-54 were found to have the highest suicide rate*.
More than 1 in 20 people make a suicide attempt at some point in their lives**.


Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you need help, call 116 123 for free or email jo@samaritans.org

Signs that someone may be suicidal

Some people considering suicide may hint at or even disclose to friends or relatives that they intend to take their own lives. Other people who are feeling suicidal might not mention it at all or give any indication of their intention. Every individual is different.

Signs that someone may have suicidal thoughts and feelings include:

● Giving away belongings
● Saying they see no way to resolve their fears or anxieties
● Withdrawing from family, friends and social activities
● Displaying unusual behaviour, such as anger or impatience, towards friends and family
● Being tearful when there is no obvious reason
● Being unable to cope with everyday routine
● Increased risk-taking
● Using phrases such as “I don’t see the point anymore”, “I want to go to sleep and not wake up”, “you’d/ they’d be better off without me”, “I can’t do it anymore”.

How to help someone you think is suicidal

There is no evidence to suggest that asking someone if they are okay will make them feel worse. Talking can help. Here are some of the ways you can help someone who has told you they are suicidal or who you think could be suicidal:

Empathise and be open to listening – you could say something like, “I can’t imagine how painful this is for you, but I would like to try to understand.”

Listen without judgement – do not blame or criticise the person for how they are feeling

Repeat what they say to you, back to them – repeating the information they gave you can help to ensure that firstly, you have understood them properly and secondly, that they know you’re truly listening to them

Ask them if they have a plan for ending their life and what that might be

Encourage them to seek help – getting professional support, such as from a doctor, counsellor or mental health charity, is really important. Work with them to find the right help

Signpost the individual to support they can access quickly if they begin to spiral

Follow up on any commitments you make to them – if you say you’ll check in with them the next day, ensure that you follow through with this. It’s important they do not feel ‘let down’ as this could trigger negative feelings

Involve their family or friends where possible – serious case reviews often highlight that friends and family were simply not aware of how that individual was feeling prior to suicide and had they known, they could have helped.

What to avoid saying to someone who is feeling suicidal

It can be really difficult to hear a family or friend tell you they feel suicidal. It’s normal to feel shocked and unsure of what to say. Remember that the person who feels suicidal may feel very alone, lost and frightened. The words we choose are important and can have a big impact on the person in crisis.

Here are some things to avoid saying and doing:

● “Cheer up”, “pull yourself together”, “you’re being silly”. Do not belittle or invalidate a person’s feelings. Their ability to verbally express their feelings out loud could actually be a big step for them.

● “Other people have it much worse than you”. Do not compare them to others. It is really important to help the person with the reality they are facing, not the reality of others. This is not a contest where some people ‘deserve’ the right to be depressed

● “I know how you feel”. Mental health is incredibly individual and whilst you may feel that you can relate to how someone is feeling, it is impossible to truly know. Keep the conversation focussed on the individual who has opened up to you and do not make it about you

● “You have a lot to live for”. When someone is severely depressed it can be really hard for them to reflect on the positive aspects of their life.

Where to go for more support and information on suicide

Samaritans are available round the clock, every single day of the year. They can help you talk through whatever is troubling you, find the answers that are right for you and offer support: 116 123 (this number is free to call), email jo@samaritans.org.

Exists to promote the well-being of bereaved people and to enable anyone bereaved by death to understand their grief and cope with their loss. The organisation provides support and offers information, advice, education and training services: http://www.cruse.org.uk/
Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland: www.crusescotland.org.uk

Facing the Future
The Facing the Future service has been developed by Samaritans and Cruse Bereavement Care to help support people who have been bereaved by suicide: https://www.facingthefuturegroups.org/

Breathing Spaces Scotland
A free, confidential phone and web-based service for people in Scotland experiencing low mood, depression or anxiety: www.breathingspacescotland.co.uk

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)
Can provide information about counsellors in your area: 0870 443 5252, www.bacp.co.uk

Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS)
Aims to provide a safe, confidential environment in which bereaved people can share their experiences and feelings, so giving and gaining support from each other. Staffed by many who have been bereaved by suicide: www.uk-sobs.org.uk

Help is at Hand
Provides people affected by suicide with both emotional and practical support: www.supportaftersuicide.org.uk

Winston’s Wish
Winston’s Wish provides practical support and guidance to bereaved children, young people and their families: 08452 030405, www.winstonswish.org.uk

YoungMinds is the UK’s leading national charity committed to improving the mental health and emotional well-being of all children and young people. www.youngminds.org.uk

Student Minds
Student Minds is the UK’s student mental health charity. www.studentminds.org.uk/

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