What is Suicide and how to help?

In the UK in 2019, 6524 people took their own lives. Men are three times more likely than women to die by suicide. Women are more likely to report suicidal thoughts.

Men aged 45 to 49 and women aged 50 to 54 have the highest suicide rates in England and Wales.

What does it mean to be suicidal?

Suicidal feelings may be confusing, terrifying, and difficult. They can range from having general thoughts about not wanting to be here to then planning how and when you could end your life. You might feel less like you want to die and more that you want the pain to stop.

You might feel:

  • hopeless or trapped
  • tearful, anxious or overwhelmed by negative thoughts
  • desperate
  • tempted to do risky or reckless things because you don’t care what happens to you
  • like you want to avoid other people

The reasons for suicide are complex, and no single explanation can be provided.

There are many different risk factors, including:

  • Mental Health Problems
  • Bullying, prejudice or stigma, such as relating to your race, gender, disability or sexual identity
  • Different types of abuse, including domestic, sexual or physical abuse
  • Bereavement including losing a loved one to suicide
  • The end of a relationship
  • Long-term physical pain or illness
  • Adjusting to a big change, such as retirement or redundancy
  • Money problems
  • Housing problems, including homelessness
  • Isolation or loneliness
  • Being in prison
  • Feeling inadequate or a failure
  • Addiction or substance abuse
  • Pregnancy, childbirth or postnatal depression
  • Doubts about your sexual or gender identity
  • Cultural pressure, such as forced marriage
  • Society’s expectations, for example to act a certain way or achieve certain things
  • Other forms of trauma

What can I do if I feel suicidal?

Suicidal feelings can make you feel as if there is no help available. Suicidal feelings can be dealt with through support for those suffering from problems that may cause you to feel that way.

Support through your GP

Your GP is an excellent place to start if you are in need of support.  It is normal to be worried about talking to your doctor about suicidal feelings. But they will be used to listening to people who are experiencing difficult feelings.

Your GP will be able to:

  • refer you to talking therapies
  • prescribe you medication
  • refer you to specialist services, such as a community mental health team (CMHT)


Being able to talk to someone on the phone can also be helpful if you are finding it difficult to open up to people you know, or don’t want to speak to someone face-to-face.

There are many helplines with trained staff ready at the end of the phone to help and support you.

If you have seriously harmed yourself or don’t feel that you can keep yourself safe right now, call 999 or go straight to A&E.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts and need support, you can:

  • call your GP and ask for an emergency appointment
  • call NHS 111 for out-of-hours help
  • contact your mental health crisis team if you have one

There are different types of crisis support available depending on what you need. You could:

  • call 999 or go to A&E if you have tried to hurt yourself or think you might act on suicidal thoughts
  • make an emergency appointment with your GP or call 111 for advice if you’re not in immediate danger
  • contact your local crisis team if a community mental health team is already supporting you
  • call an NHS urgent mental health helpline for advice and support (England only)
  • be admitted to a hospital if you need intensive support or if there’s a risk you could hurt yourself or someone else. Ask your GP or another healthcare professional to refer you if you think you need to go to a hospital or stay in a crisis house. They offer intensive short-term help as an alternative to going into a hospital or following a hospital stay.
  • Mind has more information about them
  • tell someone you trust like a partner or friend. If you’re not sure what to do or need support to get help
  • call a helpline to talk about your feelings with a trained listener

There are many free helplines available.

  • Samaritans offer a support service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call them free on 116 123. You can also email jo@samaritans.org
  • CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) has a helpline (5 pm to midnight) and webchat for anyone who needs to talk
  • Papyrus supports people under 35 who have thoughts of suicide and others who are concerned about them. You can call their HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039967 or email pat@papyrus-uk.org. They’re open every day from 9 am to midnight.

Samaritans have practical tips on dealing with suicidal feelings.

How can I help someone if I’m worried they’re suicidal?

A few simple actions can help support a suicidal person or someone who has attempted suicide.

Asking someone if they’re suicidal can help. Asking someone directly about suicide gives them permission to open up and lets them know they aren’t a burden. Being able to talk about one’s feelings can be incredibly helpful to someone who feels suicidal.

The best way to respond to a friend’s suicidal feelings is to listen and ask open questions rather than give advice. Rather than trying to solve their problems, offer support and encourage them to speak.

It can feel difficult to start these conversations. Samaritans have tips on how to be a good listener. Mind also has information on supporting someone who feels suicidal.

There may also be practical things your friend needs help with, such as calling their doctor, getting in touch with family and friends, watching TV with them, or doing activities together.

If you’re supporting someone, it’s important to know when to get professional support. You have a limit to how much help you can give as a friend, so you also need to look after yourself. Allow yourself some time to rest and think about what they said or what happened. It’s acceptable to decide you can’t assist someone or that you need to take a break.

Our Mental Health Training courses are designed to give you the knowledge to recognise a suspected Mental Health condition and the skills to start a conversation and be able to signpost a person towards professional help.

If you would like to talk to us about Mental Health training in the workplace courses across the UK, please call us on 01276 586943 or email us at admin@crosscountiestraining.co.uk.