Do you need urgent help?

If you need to speak to someone right now, here are some confidential options which provide 24/7 support.  If you're worried you might hurt yourself or someone else, please call 999, or go to your nearest A and E.


For people who are experiencing distress or despair.

0808 808 8000


Helps anyone under 19 in the UK with any issue they’re going through. Childline is free, confidential and available any time, day or night.

0800 1111


24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You don't have to be suicidal to call us

Suicide Prevention

Thu, 22 - February - 2024


Content warning: Talk of suicide and related themes.

This page aims to provide an overview of suicide, highlight the facts and common misconceptions around suicide, and signposts to support and resources available.


What is Suicide


Suicide is when someone ends their own life. It’s a very tragic response to difficult situations and feelings, perhaps most tragic because it is preventable. Thousands of people in the UK end their lives by suicide each year and one in five of us think about suicide in our lifetimes.

Having suicidal thoughts doesn’t mean that someone has a mental illness, but there is a connection between mental ill health and suicidal thoughts.

Suicidal thoughts and feelings can be complex, frightening, confusing, and lonely.

There is no single reason why people die by suicide. Social, psychological, and cultural factors can contribute to a person being at greater risk of suicide.

Learning about the possible risk factors linked to suicidal thoughts, along with how it can be prevented, may help you save a life. This may be someone else’s, or it may be your own life.


Risk factors


There is no single reason why people die by suicide. People think of suicide for many different reasons. Sociological, economic, psychological, and genetic factors can contribute to a person being at greater risk of suicide.

A risk factor might include:

  • Difficult life events, such as a traumatic childhood or experiencing physical or emotional abuse.
  • Something upsetting or life-changing such as a relationship ending or a loved one dying.
  • Misusing drugs or alcohol.
  • Living alone or having little social contact with other people.
  • Having a mental health condition such as depression.
  • Self-harming.
  • Having a physical health condition, especially if this causes chronic pain or serious disability.
  • Problems with work or money.
  • Being a young person, or being a middle-aged man.


 Myths and Facts


Myth: Talking to someone about suicide could make them more likely to end their life.

Fact: Talking about suicide won’t make somebody’s suicidal thoughts worse or make them more likely to harm themself. Starting a conversation about suicidal thoughts can help with suicide prevention by creating a safe space for them to talk about how they are feeling. You may also use this conversation as an opportunity to explore support options, such as professional support.

Myth: If a person is serious about ending their life, they can’t be helped.

Fact: While suicide is a serious public health problem, a lot can be done to prevent it with timely support.

Myth: If a person is talking about their suicidal thoughts, they won’t act on them.

Fact: Talking about suicide can be a plea for help. Don’t assume that someone won't attempt to take their own life if they talk about suicide. Always take suicidal feelings seriously.

Myth: You have to have a mental illness to think about suicide.

Fact: One in five people have thought about suicide at some point in their life. Not all people who die by suicide have a mental health condition. Though people living with a mental illness are generally more likely to feel suicidal and make an attempt.


Warning signs


A change in someone’s personality and behavior might be a sign that they are having suicidal thoughts. You may be the best judge of when someone you know is behaving differently.

Changes can include:

  • Becoming anxious.
  • Being more irritable.
  • Being more confrontational.
  • Becoming quiet.
  • Having mood swings.
  • Acting recklessly.
  • Sleeping too much or too little.
  • Not wanting to be around other people.
  • Avoiding contact with friends and family
  • Having different problems with work or studies.
  • Saying negative things about themselves.

There are some indicators that suggest someone is more likely to attempt suicide. These include:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill themselves.
  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide.
  • Thanking you or saying sorry to you for no apparent reason.
  • Preparing to end their life, such as storing up medication.
  • Putting affairs in order, such as giving away belongings or making a will.


Signs that something is wrong can sometimes be more difficult to spot. Such as a cheeriness that may seem fake to you. Or they may joke about their emotions, such as saying something quite alarming that is disguised as a joke. Don’t ignore your gut feeling if you are concerned about someone. Some people won’t be open about how they are feeling. A lot of people try to seek help before attempting suicide by telling other people about their feelings. This could be a professional, friend, or family member. If someone tells you about how they are feeling don’t ignore them.


What to say to someone who may be at risk of suicide


If you think that someone may be feeling suicidal, encourage them to talk about how they are feeling.

You may feel uncomfortable talking about suicidal feelings. You may not know what to say. This is entirely normal and understandable.

It might help to:

  • Let them know that you care about them and that they are not alone.
  • Empathise with them – you could say something like, “I can’t imagine how painful this is for you, but I would like to try to understand.”
  • Be non-judgmental and don’t criticize or blame them.
  • Repeat their words back to them in your own words – this shows that you are listening, and repeating information can also make sure that you’ve understood them properly.
  • Ask about their reasons for living and dying and listen to their answers – try to explore their reasons for living in more detail.
  • Ask if they have felt like this before and if so, ask how their feelings changed last time.
  • Reassure them that they will not feel this way forever.
  • Encourage them to focus on getting through the day rather than focusing on the future.
  • Ask them if they have a plan for ending their life and ask what the plan is.
  • Encourage them to seek help that they are comfortable with such as help from a doctor or counselor, or support through a charity such as the Samaritans.
  • Follow up any commitments that you agree to.
  • Make sure someone is with them if they are in immediate danger.
  • Try to get professional help for the person feeling suicidal.
  • Get support for yourself.
  • Remember that you don’t need to find an answer, or even completely understand why they feel the way they do. Listening to what they have to say will at least let them know you care.


If you’re not sure that someone is feeling suicidal, ask:

  •  “Are you thinking about suicide?”
  • “Are you having thoughts of ending your life?”


These questions are direct. It is better to address the person’s feelings directly rather than avoiding the issue. Remember that asking about suicide won’t make it more likely to happen.


What to do if you are at risk of suicide


If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, seek professional support.

Contact your:

  • GP and ask for an emergency appointment.
  • Local urgent mental health helpline 
  • Local NHS 111 service.


Don’t make a decision today. You don’t need to act on your thoughts right now. Try to focus on just getting through today and not the rest of your life.You may have had these thoughts before, but you feel less able to cope today. You might find that you are more able to cope in a few days. Be aware of your triggers. Triggers are things that might make you feel worse. Triggers are different for different people. You may find that certain music, photos, or films make you feel worse. Try to stay away from these.

Stay away from drugs and alcohol. Alcohol and drugs affect the way you think and feel. They can affect your judgment, concentration, behavior, and emotions. Substance use might make you more likely to act on suicidal thoughts.

Go to a safe place. Go to a place where you feel safe, such as a crisis café, a friend's house, or your garden.

Talk to other people. It could be helpful for you to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Different people can help. You could speak to friends, family, your GP, an emotional support line such as Samaritans, or an emotional support texting service such as Shout.

Be around other people. You may find it too difficult to speak to anyone at the moment. That’s okay. But try not to spend too much time alone. You could go to a shopping center, gym, coffee shop, or park. Being around people can help to keep you safe, even if they don’t know how you’re feeling.

Distract yourself. You might feel it is impossible not to focus on your suicidal thoughts or why you feel that way. If you focus on your thoughts, it might make them feel stronger and harder to cope with. Try doing things that you enjoy to distract you.




All numbers listed below are operated 24 hours a day.

Lifeline: Telephone 0808 808 8000
Samaritans: Telephone 116123
Papyrus HOPELINE: Telephone 0800 068 4141

Share this page