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Understanding suicide

Sinead Murphy Sep 9, 2020 3:04:00 PM

The World Health Organisation estimates that approximately 1 million people die each year from suicide. What drives so many individuals to take their own lives?

Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable. Blinded by feelings of self-loathing, hopelessness, and isolation, a suicidal person can’t see any way of finding relief. Despite their desire for the pain to stop, most suicidal people are deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. They wish there was an alternative to suicide, but they just can’t see one.

Myth: People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.
Fact: Almost everyone who attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Don’t ignore even indirect references to death or suicide despite however casually or jokingly said. This could be an indicator of suicidal feelings.

Myth: If someone is determined to kill themselves, nothing is going to stop them.
Fact: Even a very severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, fluctuating between wanting to live and wanting to die. Rather than wanting death, they just want the pain to stop and the impulse to end their life does not last forever.

Myth: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
Fact: You don’t give someone suicidal ideas by talking about suicide. Rather, the opposite is true. Talking openly and honestly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can help save a life.


Warning signs of suicide ­- Take any suicidal talk or behaviour seriously… It’s not just a warning sign that the person is thinking about suicide – It’s a cry for help 


Most suicidal individuals give warning signs or signals of their intentions. The best way to prevent suicide is to recognise these warning signs and know how to respond if you spot them, by getting a doctor or psychologist involved.

Major warning signs for suicide include talking about killing or harming oneself, or seeking out things that could be used in a suicide attempt, such as weapons and drugs. These signals are even more dangerous if the person has a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder, suffers from alcohol dependence, has previously attempted suicide, or has a family history of suicide.

Other warning signs that point to a suicidal mind frame include dramatic mood swings, sudden personality changes, such as switching from outgoing to withdrawn or well-behaved to rebellious. A suicidal person may also lose interest in day-to-day activities, neglect his or her appearance, and show big changes in eating or sleeping habits.

 Suicide prevention advice

People are often reluctant to intervene, for many reasons, including a fear of not knowing what to say.  Empathy, compassion, genuine concern, knowledge of resources and a desire to help are key to preventing a suicide.

Prevention is something that we can all individually help with. Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult for anyone. But if you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask.

The advice WAIT is one good way to remember how you can support another person who may be suicidal. It stands for:

W – Watch out for signs of distress and changes in behaviour

A – Ask “are you having suicidal thoughts”

– It will pass – assure the individual that with help the suicidal feelings will pass with time

T – Time to talk to others – encourage the individual to seek help from their counselling provision or GP

Seek help

If you yourself are feeling like ending your life, please call 999 or go to A&E and ask for the contact of the nearest crisis resolution team. These are teams of mental health care professionals who work with people in severe distress.

Other sources of help include:

The Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA) is a collaboration of National Health Service trusts, charities, businesses and individuals who are all committed to suicide prevention in the UK and beyond. They are an alliance of people and organisations coming together around one basic principle: Suicide is preventable. Vivup are proud to be a member of the ZSA.

Samaritans offer a 24-hours a day, 7 days a week support service. Call them FREE on 116 123. You can also email 

Papyrus is a dedicated service for people up to the age of 35 who are worried about how they are feeling or anyone concerned about a young person. You can call the HOPElineUK number on 0800 068 4141, text 07786 209697 or email

NHS Choices: 24-hour national helpline providing health advice and information. Call them free on 111

C.A.L.M.: National helpline for men to talk about any troubles they are feeling. Call 0800 58 58 58

#YouCanTalk – This campaign is about giving people the confidence to have the conversation by connecting them with resources to support them.

If your employer offers Vivup’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) it is available 24/7, 365 days a year.