Suicide Contributed by: Caitlin Burns

What is Suicide?

What is suicide?

Suicide is the act of intentionally or voluntarily ending your own life. Many people who die by suicide are so overwhelmed with negative thoughts that they feel it is the only way to end their suffering. In most cases, an underlying mental health condition is the cause of these thoughts but there are many other risk factors that can contribute to people feeling this way. Suicide causes terrible grief for family and friends as many find it difficult to understand why the person has decided to end their life, and this grief subsequently puts them at risk of developing their own mental health difficulties.

Fast Facts!

  • Fast facts

    · Around three quarters of all suicides in the UK are males.

  • · Nearly 6% of adults report making a suicide attempt at some point in their life.
  • · Suicide is the leading cause of death for adults aged 20-34.
  • · Most people who die by suicide do so to end the pain they are suffering, not their life.
  • · While individuals who self-harm are at higher risk of suicide, there is not a direct relationship.


What causes it?

What causes it?

Research shows that there are usually several complex factors that lead to death by suicide. Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and entrapment are linked to suicide along with many risk factors.

Mental health conditions (diagnosed and undiagnosed) have been found to be involved in around 90% of suicides. Conditions leading to the highest risk are severe depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder and anorexia nervosa.

Other determinants of vulnerability to suicide are drug and alcohol misuse, employment insecurity, traumatic or stressful life events, social isolation, genetics and family history. Being in debt, homeless, a war veteran, in the judicial system and exposure to other people who have died by suicide, are also risk factors for suicide.

What are the symptoms?


There are several warning signs which may indicate that an individual is at risk of suicide. A person may be considering suicide if they are actively planning a suicide method (such as collecting tablets), or if they write or talk about the topic of suicide or threaten to hurt or kill themselves.


Other signs that someone may be experiencing suicidal thoughts are:

  • · impulsivity and recklessness
  • · lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • · depression
  • · anxiety
  • · hopelessness and lack of purpose
  • · mood swings
  • · appetite changes
  • · self-harm behaviour
  • · social withdrawal
  • · changes in sleeping patterns


Writing a will and distributing possessions are also signs someone might be considering suicide.

How is it diagnosed?

How is it diagnosed?

A doctor will talk to the patient about their symptoms, when they started, how often they occur and how they are affecting their life. They will also ask about the patient’s family history to determine whether there are any conditions that run in the family. Assessments carried out by a mental health professional will determine whether there are any mental health conditions underlying the suicidal thoughts so that treatment plans for these can be made. Doctors will also explore any substance-abuse problems and current use of medication as these can both contribute to suicidal symptoms.

How is it treated?

Treatment for suicidal feelings

If someone receives the help they need with their suicidal thoughts, the risk of them dying by suicide is greatly reduced. The first step in seeking help for suicidality is to talk to someone trustworthy. Many people find this difficult, but there are many helplines to call, including the Samaritans (116 123) and ChildLine (0800 1111) who can talk through someone’s feelings with them in a non-judgemental way.

Seeing a doctor is an important step in getting help. A doctor will be able to diagnose any underlying mental health condition and refer the patient to the appropriate professional to aid treatment for this condition. Counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) are often the talking therapies used for suicidal thoughts and a psychiatrist/psychologist will devise a treatment plan often including one of these, combined with medication appropriate to any mental health problem they have.

Improving general mental health can help with feelings of suicidality. This includes maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly, as this can reduce feelings of depression, stress and anxiety. Alcohol and drug consumption are sometimes used by people to self-medicate their stress or unhappiness; however, misusing these substances actually increases risk of developing a mental health condition. Alcohol is a depressant, so lowering intake to the recommended daily limits (2 units for women and men) may prevent any low moods from worsening. Social isolation is a significant risk factor for suicide so it is important to try and keep contact with friends and stay involved in enjoyable activities, even if it is hard to do so.

Want to know more?

Want to know more?