Alcohol misuse and suicide

The link between alcohol misuse and suicide is well established. Samaritans believes a range of initiatives are needed to help tackle this complex problem to reduce suicide.

Although many factors are involved in suicide, the link between alcohol misuse and suicide has been well established. Many people who are struggling to cope with problems turn to alcohol. Samaritans believes that reducing the harm caused by alcohol is important and that just as the reasons people turn to alcohol are complex, so too are the answers to this problem. A range of initiatives are needed to address the underlying emotional distress people experience, to provide support to people struggling with alcohol addiction, and to reduce access to alcohol.

Key summary

  • The link between alcohol misuse and suicidal behaviour is well established. The risk of suicide is up to eight times greater when someone is abusing alcohol. Alcohol can reduce people’s inhibitions enough for them to act on suicidal thoughts and it can increase impulsivity, change people’s mood and deepen their depression.
  • The burden of alcohol related harm is carried by those in the most deprived groups in society, and Samaritans has previously found that men are more likely than women to use drugs or alcohol in response to distress.
  • Samaritans believes that we need both policies which address individual behaviour and the culture which normalises harmful drinking. Initiatives need to address the underlying emotional distress people experience and provide support as well as reduce access to alcohol.
  • Suicide prevention strategies across the UK and Ireland recognise the link between alcohol misuse and suicide prevention but alcohol strategies do not make strong links with suicide prevention. Samaritans believes that there must be explicit links between alcohol reduction and suicide prevention strategies, and that both must address the relationships between alcohol consumption, masculinity, deprivation and suicide.

Download Samaritans' full alcohol misuse policy briefing.