Understanding Suicide

Suicide is a public health priority and suicidal thoughts, whether actioned, planned or attempted, can have lasting effects on an individual, their social circles and their communities.

The causes of suicide are complex and often link to other mental health problems, such as depression or self-harm, and suicidal thoughts come from feelings of desperation, hopelessness, low self-worth and isolation.

If you, or someone you know, is feeling suicidal, it’s important to get help and to know you’re not alone. Many people experience suicidal feelings, whether it’s making a plan for suicide or having a passing consideration of ending their life. When a person is experiencing a mental health struggle or they’ve reached a personal crisis, be it housing, money, family, relationships, bereavement, work or more, they’re more at risk of feeling suicidal.

If you’re suicidal, you don’t have to go through these difficult feelings alone. There is support to get you back to a place where you feel in control and positive about your future. Read more about your support options here.

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Suicide in numbers


According to the World Health Organisation, nearly 800,000 people die by suicide every year, and for every suicide, there are many more people who attempt suicide. In 2016, suicide was the third leading cause of death in 15-19-year-olds. (Source)

In the UK

In 2018, there were 6,507 deaths by suicide, at a rate of 11.2 deaths per 100,000 people. (Source) There is one death fron suicide every 90 minutes across the UK and Ireland and suicide is three times more common amongst men than women. (Source)

Northern Ireland

Suicide is a prevalent issue. More people have died by suicide than were killed during 30 years of conflict years between 1998 and 2016. In 2016, more than 4,400 suicide deaths were recorded compared to 3,600 killed in nearly a decade of war. (Source)
Findings found about one in eight children and young people aged up to 19 years old have thought about or attempted suicide with 6.6% having made a plan and 3.5% having made an attempt. (Source)
The overall suicide rate in Northern Ireland is currently more than three times the rate of road deaths, and in recent years, there has been a growing trend in suicide amongst men under the age of 35 years. (Source)
Mood disorders – including depression or anxiety disorders, which contribute to the risk of suicide – are 25% more common compared to other parts of the UK (Health and Social Care Board).

What is suicide?

Suicide is the act of intentionally ending your own life, and right now, suicide is a public health priority affecting anyone at any age, of any gender or background. Close to 800,000 people around the world die by suicide every year.
In Northern Ireland, more people have died by suicide than were killed during 30 years of conflict between the years of 1998-2016. In 2016, more than 4,400 suicide deaths were recorded compared to 3,600 killed in nearly a decade of war. Research found about one in eight children and young people aged up to 19 years old have thought about or attempted suicide.

What does it feel like to be suicidal?

Feeling suicidal means having suicidal thoughts or suicidal ideation. Thoughts of killing yourself can range from making a detailed plan to having a passing consideration and it can also mean thinking about suicide methods. Suicidal thoughts are an indication of a wider mental health issue which may cause a person to feel low, worthless, hopeless, or to feel isolated and unable to escape difficult emotions.

How long someone experiences feeling suicidal is different from person to person, but many feel as though they’ve lost hope or they’ll never feel like themselves again. . Suicidal thoughts can develop over time, particularly if someone feels like they can’t continue living life in this way. Every person’s experience of being suicidal is different and it’s common for someone to not understand why they feel this way or to struggle with stopping these feelings once they arrive. For anyone feeling suicidal, you might:
    -Feel worthless or like life isn’t worth living
    -Think people would be better off without you
    -Feel hopeless or despairing
    -Feel overwhelmed by negative thoughts
    -Feel isolated socially or cut off from friends and family

    Your behaviour may change and you might experience:
    -A change to your sleeping and eating patterns
    -No desire to socialise
    -Avoiding other people
    -A breakdown in communication
    -Less enjoyment in activities that brought you happiness
    -Less interest in your appearance
    -Neglecting self-care, like showering or brushing your teeth
    -Self-loathing or a lack of self confidence

What causes suicidal feelings?

The causes of suicide are complex and often linked to other mental health problems, such as depression or self-harm. Suicidal thoughts tend to come from feelings of depression, desperation, hopelessness, low self-worth and isolation. Life’s hardships can instigate low or suicidal feelings because these problems may feel insurmountable. Life experiences which trigger suicidal thoughts may include, but are not limited to:
    -Financial stresses
    -Relationship problems, divorce or a break-up
    -Housing issues, including homelessness or risk of homelessness
    -Chronic or long-term health issues or illnesses
    -Substance abuse or addiction
    -Mental health problems
    -Being in prison
    -Work difficulties, such as a job loss, stress or daily pressures
    -Pregnancy or postnatal depression
    -Sexual orientation and gender identity
    -Trauma or abuse

What support is there?

Getting support is important in your journey to feeling better. In 2019, more than 70% of people who died by suicide weren’t known to mental health services. For those going it alone – it doesn’t have to be this way. The help you need is there, and like many others, you can make a recovery and continue living in a way where you feel more content, secure and fulfilled. The earlier you get support or let someone know how you’re feeling, the sooner you will start to overcome these feelings and develop coping techniques.
Support options include seeking out mental health support service, speaking to someone on a helpline or getting one-to-one support , such as talking therapy, CBT, life coaching or creative therapies. Once you’ve decided on an option, it can help to prepare for getting the most out of your support.
If you, or someone you know, is at risk of harming themselves or you’re worried you can’t keep yourself or someone else safe until you get support, seek immediate help by calling 999 or going to A&E.
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts:
-Call your GP or out-of-hours GP for an emergency appointment
-Call NHS 111 for advice
-Contact your mental health crisis team, who are available in all trust areas. They can carry out a mental health assessment and provide short-term help until another service or support option is available.
-You can also ask your GP or your out-of-hours GP about the mental health crisis team in your area.

What do you need?

Helpful Resources

Papyrus HOPELINEUK is a helpline for anyone under 35 who has suicidal feelings or is concerned about someone else who might be. You can also get in touch through their text or email service.
0800 068 4141
Lifeline is a telephone helpline and counselling for anyone in distress. It’s available 24/7 and free to call from your mobile.
0808 808 8000
Mind Logo
Mind’s Infoline provides an information service where you can ask about mental health problems, where to get help near you and treatment options.
SANEline can support you or someone you know if you’re experiencing a mental health problem. Call SANEline on 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm–10.30pm every day)