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Choices for Wellbeing: Suicide prevention and supporting people who may be suicidal

The need for suicide prevention is greater than ever. New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that suicides are increasing in England and Wales

In 2019, a total of 5,691 suicides were registered in England and Wales, compared with 5,420 in 2018.

Following several years of decline, the latest figures are higher than the rates seen in recent years between 2014 and 2017.

In particular, the suicide rate for males in England in 2019 was the highest seen since 2000.

Men in their late forties are at especially high risk of taking their own lives and women in this age group are also at relatively high risk.

Suicides among young people are far fewer - but the latest statistics show a troubling increase in recent years. 

Particularly, 10-to-24-year-old girls and women. The suicide rate amongst this group is the highest recorded since 1981.

These figures show that something needs to be done so that we can ensure help and support is provided long before people reach breaking point.

Suicides and the coronavirus pandemic

The emergence of the coronavirus pandemic is bound to have a significant effect on people’s mental health.

The relationship between the coronavirus pandemic and mental health issues is a complicated one and studies are currently being conducted on this very topic.

The Samaritans are collaborating with the Suicidal Behaviour Research Lab at The University of Glasgow and Scottish Association for Mental Health to understand the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the mental health and wellbeing of the UK.

Recent findings from University College London revealed that 8,000 out of 44,000 people surveyed reported thoughts of self-harm or suicide during the UK’s lockdown.

Mental health support and suicide prevention

Suicide prevention needs to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Prevention must happen in schools, in workplaces, in support for families, in local community organisations and in GPs' surgeries.

Prevention is also something that we can all individually help with.  A short conversation with someone can sometimes be enough to make the difference between life and death for them.

The WAIT approach to suicide prevention

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


Watch out for signs of distress and uncharacteristic behaviour.

This could mean social withdrawal, excessive quietness, irritability, uncharacteristic outbursts and talking about death or suicide.


Ask them if they are having suicidal thoughts.

Asking about suicide does not encourage it, nor does it lead a person to start thinking about it. In fact, it may help prevent it and can start a potentially life-saving conversation.


Assure the person that, with help, their suicidal feelings will pass with time.


Encourage the person to seek help from a GP or other health professionals.

Suicide prevention starts with recognising the warning signs and taking them seriously. If you think a work colleague, friend or family member is considering suicide, there’s plenty you can do to help.

The warning signs of suicide

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.

These warning signs can include:

Talking about suicide

Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as “I wish I hadn’t been born,” “If I see you again…” or “I’d be better off dead.”

Seeking out lethal means

Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.

Preoccupation with death

An unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.

No hope for the future

Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped. A belief that things will never get better or change.

Self-loathing, self-hatred

Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden and suggesting things like, “Everyone would be better off without me”.

Getting affairs in order

Making out a will, giving away prized possessions and planning for family members.

Saying goodbye

Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.

Withdrawing from others

Withdrawing from friends and family. An increase in social isolation or a desire to be left alone.

Self-destructive behaviour

Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving and unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a “death wish.”

Sudden sense of calm

A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has decided to attempt suicide.

Support for people feeling suicidal

If you’ve had suicidal thoughts, or you suspect that a work colleague, friend or family member might, further help and support is available.

Samaritans offers a 24-hours a day, 7-days-a-week support service. Call 116 123.

Papyrus is a dedicated service for people up to the age of 35. Call 0800 068 41 41.

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is a national helpline for men. Call 0800 58 58 58.

You can also call the free NHS 24-hour national helpline for health advice and information. Call 111.

For support on managing employees mental health and advice on how you can build suicide prevention into your own workplace wellbeing strategy, contact the team at Fusion today.

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Categories: Choices for WellbeingHealth & WellbeingMental HealthOccupational Health

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