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World Suicide Prevention Day

Suicide is a topic that many of us have been touched by. This year's World Suicide Prevention Day theme is ‘creating hope through action’.

Suicide is a topic that many of us have been touched by, we may have experienced thoughts of suicide ourselves (it is estimated that up to 5% of the population may think about suicide), we may have friends, a partner, or family members with lived experience of suicide, and tragically, for some of us, we may grieve the loss of someone close to us who ended their life.

Suicide affects many of our lives, whether it is directly, through our own personal experiences and of those closest to us, or indirectly- such as hearing about someone in our community that has died by suicide, or even reading about suicide in the media. Yet it is a topic many of us have trouble discussing openly.

There are many reasons for our hesitation to discuss suicide.

It is a harrowing topic, and whether we have been directly impacted by suicide or not, it is extremely difficult to talk about something that means someone is experiencing intense mental pain, that ending their life has become an option, that their emotional suffering is so unbearable, that they feel that they can no longer go on living.

We may fear approaching the topic with someone we have concerns about. If we ask them if they are thinking of suicide, will we plant the idea in their head? This is a myth! If we are truly honest with ourselves, perhaps we are afraid of the answer we will receive, we might be unsure of what to do or say, how we can make things better, or we may be terrified of making things worse.

It is essential that we have this conversation, as often people need ‘permission’ to talk about suicide. For many people with thoughts of suicide, this will likely be a secret due to the shame, stigma, and the fear of how someone may react if they disclose how they are feeling– afraid they will receive judgment, or an over or under reaction.

It hurts to keep this kind of secret and it only adds to further feelings of isolation and shame.

Language around suicide

The words we choose around suicide matter. We can help to decrease stigma by changing the words we use whilst discussing suicide.

Improper language around suicide is common, and these terms are unfortunately still used by many people, within the media, particularly on TV and in newspapers.

Often this language is used not as a means to be hurtful, but rather through a lack of awareness.

Committed suicide.

Suicide has not been a crime since 1961, therefore, we should not talk about it like it is.

Died by suicide, took their own life.

Correct terminology.

Successful/ unsuccessful suicide

Completed/ failed suicide.

No suicide is a success and should not be spoken in terms that imply achievement.

A suicide / A suicide attempt.

Correct terminology.

Phrases such as 'thinking of doing something silly' are also problematic as it can appear as though you are minimising the emotional distress that causes someone to begin thinking of ending their life.

Who is at risk of thinking of suicide?

Those experiencing painful current life events such as redundancy, bereavement, or a relationship breakdown. Those with a painful past history, including adverse childhood experiences and traumatic events in adulthood. Those who are living with addiction or have a mental health condition, or who are struggling with ongoing physical health problems. Those who have attempted suicide before.

However, we must remember that any one of us can start to experience thoughts of suicide.

Warning signs for suicide

Suicides without warning signs are rare, so we should all be aware of the signs that someone may be thinking of suicide. Signs can include what we may hear someone verbally expressing, emotions, and behaviours;

  • Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness

  • Expressing that they are a burden to others, that they will be better off if they are not here anymore

  • Withdrawal from friends and family

  • Putting affairs in order - e.g., giving away possessions, suicide notes, making amends for wrongdoings, tying up loose ends

  • Obtaining the means to suicide

  • Self-harm (not everyone who self-harms is suicidal, however over time, suicide intent can change. The person may also be at risk of ‘accidental suicide / death by misadventure’, if the self-injury inflicted is severe. )

  • Acting recklessly, engaging in risky activities

  • Changes in mood that appear ‘out of character’.

  • Extreme sorrow, anger, anxiousness, appearing emotionally numb.

  • Unexplained recovery: If someone appears elated or ‘at peace’, or appears to be suddenly ‘better’ after a long period of poor mental health, this may be a sign they have made up their mind about suicide.

How to help

Ask them about thoughts of suicide.

Ask the person directly, doing so shows the person that we have cared enough to notice and to ask, and that we are able to tolerate what they may disclose to us. This lets the person know that we are someone that they can confide in. Remember people often need ‘permission’ to talk about suicide.

Find out what is going on for them.

Listen to what the person has to tell you, and refrain from passing judgments, and jumping in with opinions or advice. Listen with empathy and patience, whilst seeking to understand what it is their feeling and what is causing them to think about suicide. You should find out if they have ever felt like this before.

Find out if they have a suicide plan.

Find out if the person has gotten so far as to plan how they will end their life. If someone has a suicide plan, we need to help dismantle it.

Help that person stay safe.

Help connect the person to ‘life supports’ This can include finding out about that person’s support network, offering them your emotional support or practical help, (where appropriate / depending on your relationship with the person), and linking them up to services that can help which include GP, clinical services, and organisations, such as CALM.

NHS: 111

Samaritans: 116 123

CALM: 0800 585858

Papyrus: 0800 068 41 41

If there is an immediate safety issue call 999 or help them get to A&E

No one can deny that having a conversation about suicide will not be easy, to know another human being is in so much anguish, particularly if it is someone close to us, can be a painful experience for us too. If we are supporting someone who is experiencing thoughts of suicide, we also need to look after our own mental well-being.

Thoughts of suicide emerge when there is little hope, and the emotional suffering is so great, that life feels too painful to endure. Very often that person sees no way of ending that pain, other than to end their life. By recognising someone’s pain and connecting them to ‘life supports’, we can help someone work towards easing their suffering, give them hope for the future and help to keep them alive.


We have created a number of zine dealing with Suicide, these are split into musicians and non-musicians, you can find them on the links below.

Never Mind The Stigma version

For non-musicians

Watch the video on our YouTube Channel for help with the Suicide Safety Prevention Plan.

Tonic Rider version

For artists and people working in the music industry

Watch the video on our YouTube Channel for help with the Suicide Safety Prevention Plan.

Tonic Rider - Suicide First Aid Lite

Our 4 hour virtual course teaches suicide awareness and the theory and practice of suicide intervention skills, giving learners the knowledge and tools to understand that suicide is one of the most preventable deaths and some basic skills can help someone with thoughts of suicide stay safe from their thoughts and stay alive.

For more information and how to register for this course click here.



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