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Recognising the warning signs of suicide

Suicide is the intentional ending of your life.

Although suicide is a leading cause of death in the UK, experts still don’t know why some people chose to kill themselves or attempt suicide.

There were more than 6,000 suicides in the UK in 2013.

Men are more likely to die from suicide, but women are more likely to attempt to kill themselves.

Risk factors include depression and other mental health conditions.

Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very seriously. It can help to talk about these thoughts with a family member or trusted friend.

The Samaritans runs a 24-hour support line on 116 123.

Another option is to go to the nearest hospital A&E department and explain the suicidal feelings.

NHS Helplines, such as NHS 111 in England, NHS 24 in Scotland and NHS Direct in Wales can help, as can family GPs.

Are there risk factors for suicide?

Risk factors for thoughts of suicide can vary with age, gender, and ethnic group. And risk factors often occur in combinations. Men under the age of 35 are particularly at risk of dying by suicide.

Many people who end their life by suicide have a mental illness, including depression. Many times, people who die by suicide have a substance abuse problem. Often they have that problem in combination with other mental health disorders.

Adverse or traumatic life events in combination with other risk factors, such as clinical depression, may lead to suicide. But suicide and suicidal behaviour are never normal responses to stress.

Other risk factors for suicide include:

  • One or more prior suicide attempts
  • Family history of mental health disorder or substance abuse
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Keeping harmful objects, such as firearms, in the home
  • Incarceration
  • Exposure to the suicidal behaviour of others


Are there warning signs of suicide?

Warning signs that someone may be thinking about or planning to commit suicide include:

  • Always talking or thinking about death
  • Clinical depression - deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating - that gets worse
  • Having a "death wish", tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death such as driving fast or going through red lights
  • Losing interest in things one used to care about
  • Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
  • Saying things like "it would be better if I wasn't here" or "I’ve had enough"
  • Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
  • Talking about suicide or killing one's self
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye

Be especially concerned if a person is exhibiting any of these warning signs and has attempted suicide in the past. The NHS says people who have tried to take their own life or self-harmed before are in a higher risk group.

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