Facts & Stats about Suicide
The statistics below suggest that talking about suicide is, incredibly, still stigmatised. And yet talking about suicide, seeking to understanding it better, and removing the fears and myths that stop us from talking are absolutely vital to reducing these numbers.
As we read these statistics, it is important to remember that behind every number is a person in pain, a person with a story, with a family and friends. Statistics like this are useful, but only to a point. In the moment, when we are talking with someone who is thinking of suicide, numbers are meaningless - the only thing that is important is listening to the person with our undivided attention and working with them on what they need most.
Deaths by suicide
Nearly 6,000 people died by suicide in the UK in 2017 - equivalent to one death by suicide every two hours. Over the past three years, rates have decreased across the UK overall.
Thoughts of suicide
A fifth of adults (20.6%) reported that they had thought of taking their own life at some point in their lives. Higher rates were reported by women (22.4%) than by men (18.7%).
One in 15 (6.7%) of adults in England are estimated to have made a suicide attempt at some point in their life. This was found to be higher for women (8.0%) than men (5.4%).
Suicide is the leading cause of death of young people aged 20-34 years and men under 50. Around three times as many men than women die by suicide.
One reason that men are more likely to die by suicide may be because they are less likely than women to ask for help or talk about depressive or suicidal feelings.
Wylie, C. et al. (2012). ‘Men, Suicide and Society.’ Samaritans Research Report.
Contact with Mental Health services
Only 27% of people who died by suicide between 2005 and 2015 had been in contact with mental health services in the year before they died.
Suicide and mental health
People with a diagnosed mental health condition are shown to be at a higher risk of attempting and dying by suicide, with more than 90% of suicides and suicide attempts having been found to be associated with a psychiatric disorder.
Hawton, K., Houston, K., Haw, C., Townsend, E. & Harriss, L. (2003). Comorbidity of Axis I and Axis II Disorders in Patients who attempted Suicide. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 160 (8), 1494-1500.
Across the globe, the highest rates of suicide were associated with depressive disorders.
Studies have found the experience of stressful life events to be associated with depressive symptoms and the onset of major depression, as well as suicide and suicidal thoughts.
Mazure C.M. (1998). Life stressors as risk factors in depression. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 5, 291-313 and Lui, R.T., & Miller, I. (2014). Life events and suicidal ideation and behaviour: a systematic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 34(3), 181-192.
Certain factors are known to be associated with increased risk of suicide, which may fall into one of three categories – individual, socio-cultural and situational.
drug and alcohol misuse
history of trauma or abuse
poverty / poor social conditions
Impact of Previous Suicide Attempts or Self-harm
Previous suicide attempts and engagement in self-harming behaviours are also an indication of particular risk.
Klonsky, E.D., May, A.M. & Glenn, C.R. (2013). The relationship between nonsuicidal self-injury and attempted suicide: Converging evidence from four samples. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 122 (1), 231-237.
Up to 16% of suicide survivors make another attempt within a year, with 2% of repeat attempts being fatal.
Cornaggia, C., Beghi, M., Rosenbaum, J. and Cerri, C. (2013). Risk factors for fatal and nonfatal repetition of suicide attempts: a literature review. Neuropsychiatric Disease Treatment, 9, pp.1725-1735.
Self-harm is not directly related to suicide but there is research to suggest that individuals who self-harm are at greater risk of attempting or dying by suicide.
Klonsky, D.E., May, A.M. & Glenn, C.R. (2013). The relationship between nonsuicidal self-injury and attempted suicide: Converging evidence from four samples. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 122 (1), 231-237.
Bergen, H., Hawton, K., Waters, K., Ness, J., Cooper, J., Steeg, S. & Navneet, K. (2012). How do methods of non-fatal self-harm relate to eventual suicide? Journal of Affective Disorders, 136 (3), 526-533.
Suicide is a final act of behaviour that is the result of a range of factors, difficulties and distress.
Gviom, Y. & Apter, A. (2012). Suicide and Suicidal Behavior. Public Health Reviews, 34 (2), 1-20.
For many people an attempt occurs after months of having thoughts and feelings about suicide.
Many factors might predict if someone is more at risk of feeling suicidal or of acting on these thoughts. These signs might include:
feeling depressed, withdrawn and anxious
loss of interest in hobbies, work, socialising or even in their appearance
expressing feelings of hopelessness or purposelessness
acting impulsively or in a reckless way and not caring what happens to them
giving away possessions, sorting out their affairs or making a will
talking about suicide, death or dying or wanting it all to end
f you notice these signs or feel that you someone you know is at risk of taking their own life, these signs can offer potential opportunities to intervene and save lives.