According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 5,691 suicides registered in England and Wales in 2019. About 75% of them were among men, which is consistent with a trend that started in the mid-1990s. Statistics also show that rates among people under 25 years old have increased, especially among girls and women ages 10 to 24.[1] There is concern that Covid-19 and related problems will increase suicide rates, but preliminary data doesn’t show a rise in suicides. As the pandemic continues for a second year and people become more exhausted and demoralized this could change.[2] No matter what the future holds, knowledge, self-help, and help from others can reduce the risk of suicide.

Suicidal Feelings, Thoughts, and Behaviours

Suicide can be the result of a tumultuous inner life that includes suicidal feelings, thoughts, and behaviours.

Suicidal Feelings

Suicidal feelings stem from distressing emotions such as disappointment, fear, hopelessness, guilt, loneliness, rage, sadness, and shame that create an urge or a need to take one’s life. [3]

Suicidal Thoughts

Suicidal thoughts (or suicide ideation) occur when people consider or make plans to take their lives.[4]  

Suicidal Behaviours

Suicidal behaviours are actions people take to commit or attempt to commit suicide such as buying a gun, collecting pills, giving away possessions, or writing suicide notes.

Suicidal Violence

Suicidal violence involves intentionally injuring or creating the potential for injuring oneself.[5]

Causes of Suicide and Suicidal Tendencies

Mental, physical, and social issues can create overwhelming negative emotions that lead to suicide or suicidal feelings, thoughts, and behaviours.[6]

Mental Illness

Having a serious mental illness such as severe depression makes people more vulnerable to committing suicide. Bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia also increase the risk of suicide.

Traumatic Experiences

Traumatic experiences including bullying, child abuse and neglect, captivity, discrimination, sexual assault, and warfare can lead people to take their own lives. [7] [8]Loss Significant losses can cause some people to believe life is no longer worth living. Examples of major losses include the following: 

·       Academic failure

·       Being arrested or imprisoned

·       Death of loved ones

·       End of important relationships with family members, friends, or romantic partners

·       Financial problems such as insolvency and bankruptcy

·       Job loss

·       Loss of social status

Addiction and Substance Use

Addictions to alcohol and other drugs and substance use can heighten suicidal thoughts and feelings, decrease inhibitions, and increase impulsiveness, which could lead to suicide or suicide attempts. Addictions can contribute to other reasons for suicide including painful losses (e.g., jobs and relationships) and severe situations like imprisonment.

Chronic Pain and Illness

Living with chronic illness, constant pain, or physical disability causes mental health issues including depression, hopelessness, anxiety, guilt, and shame as well as loss of control and dignity. Suicide can provide a way to end the suffering, regain dignity, and take control of one’s life. The following chronic illnesses place people at higher risk of committing suicide. 

·       Asthma

·       Back pain

·       Cancer

·       Diabetes

·       Epilepsy

·       Heart disease

·       High blood pressure

·       HIV/AIDS

·       Migraine headaches

·       Parkinson's disease

·       Traumatic brain injury


Feeling hopeless about a problem or life in general can lead to suicide. Hopelessness can be so overwhelming that people lose touch with the positive things in life and the reasons life is worth living. Their despair and pessimism can make it impossible to believe things will get better.

Social Isolation

Social isolation can occur for several reasons including lack of meaningful contact with others, loss of relationships, physical and mental illness, retirement or unemployment, or a move to a new locale. Disconnection from others can cause or worsen feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, and sadness, which could lead to suicide.

Feeling Like a Burden to Others

People with chronic illnesses, constant pain, or physical or mental disabilities may believe they are a burden to family, friends, and others who help them. The loss of control and dignity that incapacitation can cause can create feelings of worthlessness. This level of emotional pain and sense of powerlessness makes some people more vulnerable to suicide.

Crying out for Help

People may attempt suicide to let others know the severity of their pain. They don’t want to die, but they may not know how to get help for their problems.

Unintentional Death

In some cases, people take their own lives accidentally, for example, a suicide attempt meant to get attention leads to death. Behaviours such as autoerotic asphyxiation or choking games intended to create euphoria as well as unintentional shootings, overdoses, and poisonings also lead to accidental suicides.         

Additional Risk Factors for Suicide 

·       Family history of violence or suicide

·       Identifying as LGBTQIA+ with no support from family

·       Lack of access to mental health care

·       Possessing a gun or other means of committing suicide

·       Inability to seek help because of stigma or fear

·       Previous suicide attempts

·      Exposure to sensationalize accounts of suicide or suicidal behaviour in others[9]

·       Housing problems

·       Adjusting to a significant change

·       Pregnancy, childbirth, or postnatal depression

·       Cultural pressures (e.g., forced marriage)

·       Doubts about gender or sexual identity[10] 

Warning Signs of Suicide

Sometimes there are clear signals that a person is at risk of committing suicide. But, in many instances, there may be no obvious signs. The following behaviours could indicate that a person will attempt to or commit suicide.[11]

High-risk Warning Signs

·       Threatening to harm or kill themselves

·       Writing or talking about dying, death, or suicide

·       Actively seeking ways to kill themselvesAdditional Warning Signs

·       Causing self-harm such as biting, burning, cutting, misusing alcohol or drugs, scratching, and overdosing on medication[12]

·       Displaying anxiety and agitation

·       Engaging in risky activities with no concern about the consequences

·       Exhibiting sudden mood swings

·       Experiencing noticeable changes in appetite and weight

·       Expressing a sense of hopelessness

·       Having fits of rage

·       Losing interest in almost everything including appearance

·       Putting affairs in order (e.g., making a will or sorting out possessions)

·       Sleeping too little or too much

·       Talking about feeling trapped and having no way out of the situation

·       Talking and acting as if life has no meaning

·       Withdrawing from family, friends, and society

Coping with Symptoms of Suicide

Having suicidal thoughts and feelings doesn’t mean a person will commit suicide. Sometimes we feel intense hopelessness, want an immediate end to our suffering, or believe we can’t go on because of life’s difficulties. These feelings can be a reaction to a particular situation and quickly fade or something you can control. They may also indicate a need to see a therapist or counsellor.

Seeking Immediate Help

If your suicidal thoughts and feelings are uncontrollable or persistent, you feel desperate or intensely hopeless, or you’re engaging in suicidal behaviours, please seek help immediately.[13]

  • Call 999 or go to an A&E.
  • Talk with someone you trust.
  • Call a helpline.

·       Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – 0800 58 58 58 (5 pm to midnight every day)

·       Childline – 0800 1111 – For children and teenagers only (24 hours a day)

·       Papyrus – 0800 068 41 41 – For people under 35 only (9 am to midnight every day)

·       Samaritans – 116 123 (24 hours)

·       SOS Suicide of Silence – 0300 1020 505 (8 am to midnight every day)Ø  Send a message to a text line.

·       Papyrus – 07860 039967 – For people under 35 only

·       Shout Crisis Text Line – Text “SHOUT” to 85258

·       YoungMinds Crisis Messenger – Text “YM” to 85258 – For people under 19

Developing Ways to Help Yourself

There are many things you can do to manage suicidal thoughts and feelings including not making an immediate decision, developing and implementing a crisis plan, creating and using a crisis box, and going to a safe place.[14]

Don’t make an immediate decision to take your life.

If you’re thinking about suicide, you don’t have to take your life right now. Instead, work on getting through the day. If you focus on each day rather than the rest of your life, things will seem more manageable. In a few days, you may feel more capable of coping with your thoughts and feelings.

Develop and implement a crisis plan.

A crisis plan includes resources you can access during difficult times such as the names and numbers of people who can help you, positive activities that distract you from your thoughts and feelings, and relaxation techniques.

Create and use a crisis box.

A crisis box contains items that bring comfort when you’re feeling anxious, hopeless, sad, or suicidal.  

·       Ideas for a crisis box

-    Affirmations

-    A copy of your crisis plan

-    A list of positive things you’ve learned in therapy

-    Mementos

-    Music

-    Puzzle or colouring books

-    Special photographs

Identify and go to a safe place.

Having a safe place to go to when you’re feeling suicidal can provide the comfort, security, and stability you need to regain control.   

·       Examples of safe places

-    Crisis centre

-    Friend’s house

-    Mental health centre

-    Spiritual centre

-    Library

-    Your bedroom 

Seeking Help from Others

It may be hard and even frightening to ask for help when everything feels out of control or you’re feeling hopeless. You may also feel like you don’t deserve help or to feel better or you may be afraid people will judge you. These feelings are completely understandable, but there are trustworthy people who want to help you. They will show you the kindness, care, and respect you’re worthy of.  

·       People who can help

-    Colleague

-    Family member or friend

-    Religious or spiritual leader

-    Someone at a helpline

-    Teacher

-    Therapist or counsellor

You Can Regain Control of Your Life

As we struggle with the losses, changes, and uncertainty the pandemic has caused in addition to the challenges we were dealing with before it started, taking your life may seem like a viable course of action. But this drastic step isn’t your only option. Working with a therapist or counsellor can help you harness your inner strength and use it to regain stability and peace of mind. At Life Counsel, we provide a safe and welcoming place for you to talk about what you’re going through and find solutions to your problems.

[1] “Suicides in England and Wales: 2019 Registrations,” Office for National Statistics, accessed March 28, 2021,

[2] Louis Appleby, “Louis Appleby: What Has Been the Effect of Covid-19 on Suicide Rates?” BMJ Opinion, accessed March 28, 2021,

[3] “Suicidal Feelings,” Mind, accessed March 27, 2021,

[4] Yvette Brazier, “What Are Suicidal Thoughts?” Medical News Today, accessed March 27, 2021,

[5] O’Connor, E., Gaynes, B., Burda, BU., et al., “Screening for Suicide Risk in Primary Care: A Systematic Evidence Review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force [Internet],” National Center for Biotechnology Information, accessed March 28, 2021,

[6] Nancy Schimelpfening, “Why Do People Commit Suicide?” Very Well Mind, accessed March 28, 2021,

[7] “Suicide Information,” NHS Inform, accessed March 28, 2021,

[8] “Common Causes of Suicidal Feelings,” Mind, accessed March 28, 2021,

[9] Brazier. “What Are Suicidal.”

[10] “Common Causes of Suicidal.”

[11] “Suicide Information.”

[12] “Self-harm,” Rethink Mental Illness, accessed March 28, 2021,

[13] “Help for Suicidal Thoughts,” NHS, accessed March 28, 2021,

[14] “Suicidal Thoughts: How to Cope,” Rethink Mental Illness, accessed March 28, 2021, 

Stathi Anthopoulos

Stathi Anthopoulos

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