Advice hub. Suicide awareness

Almost everyone will, at some point or other, think about suicide. It is, in fact, surprisingly common for people to contemplate 'ending it all'.

But the vast majority of people who have contemplated killing themselves will tell you that the feelings pass, no matter how unbearable they may seem at the time. Anyone seriously contemplating suicide is in urgent need of sensitive support and compassionate care. And anyone who has been close to someone who has killed themselves will also tell you of the emotional devastation that is left behind. Hospitality Action is here to support you.

There are many reasons why people contemplate suicide. According to the Samaritans, a charity which specialises in providing support to the suicidal, there is rarely just one reason why people want to take their own lives.

The kinds of problems that might increase the risk of suicide include: the recent loss of a close relationship, an unhappy change in circumstances, physical or mental illness, bereavement, bullying, loneliness and financial difficulties.

There is also a very high correlation between suicide and substance abuse.

Suicide rates are higher among men than among women across all age groups, according to research cited by Mind, the mental health charity. This is often put down to the fact that men are less likely to talk about their problems and therefore more prone to depression.

Among young people (15-19 years old), girls are more likely to attempt suicide, but boys are much more likely to die as a result of a suicide attempt.

Self-harming is more common among young women. Cutting, burning and scratching can be used to cope with overwhelming feelings of shame and fear, transforming emotional distress into physical pain. According to Mind, people who deliberately harm themselves are not necessarily suicidal, however there is evidence of a link between attempted suicide and self-harming behaviour.

It is quite normal to have distant thoughts of suicide from time to time. It is also not uncommon among people struggling with depression to have actively suicidal thoughts without any intention of actually killing themselves.

But there are some warning signs that should be taken very seriously:

  • Making concrete plans — These might include making a will, taking out life insurance, saving up sleeping pills or working out how you want to be found.
  • Feeling that others will be better off without you — Many people who contemplate suicide do not go through with it because of the impact they realise their death would have on loved ones. Once people start firmly believing that those close to them will genuinely be better off without them, their vulnerability increases dramatically.
  • Marked changes in behaviour — Some people might suddenly access feelings of calm and serenity once they’ve decided to kill themselves. Alternatively, they might become cut off and withdrawn.
  • Talking about suicide — Most people who take their own lives have mentioned their desire to do so to someone. If someone does let you know that they are having suicidal thoughts, always take them seriously.  You don’t have to be able to solve their problems.  But if you feel you can, offer support and encourage them to talk about how they are feeling.

If it’s you who is contemplating suicide or someone you know, it is crucial to hold on to the reality that these are feelings that pass, no matter how catastrophic they may seem now. Pain can be processed, and new ways to live life can be found. Get help. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, it’s important to get some kind of outside support. 

Overwhelming feelings are very difficult to process on your own. There are organisations, such as the Samaritans, that run helplines staffed by people with special training in talking to people who are suicidal. Alternatively, Hospitality Action will connect you with an experienced counsellor who will help you think through the issues and decide on the best way forward.

If you have someone in your life who is feeling suicidal, Mind recommends discussing strategies with them for seeking help. One way of doing this is to create a personal support list that might include the names, phone numbers and addresses of individuals, helplines, organisations and professionals available for support.