Drinking alcohol can increase someone's risk of dying by suicide. This is connected to both the impact of long-term alcohol use and the immediate effects of drinking.
With our partners in the Suicide Prevention Consortium, we have been exploring what the relationship between alcohol and suicide looks like for people living in England, in their own words.
We shared surveys with people who have lived experience of suicide, to understand more about their relationships with alcohol. We hope that by sharing their insights we can encourage the Westminster Government and healthcare services to make changes that will help people to be better supported.
What did we find?
- There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’. The best support people received acknowledged their personal circumstances and made them feel trusted and listened to. Unfortunately, many people did not receive this level of care.
- For many people, alcohol is part of a bigger picture. They described drinking alcohol as a way of coping with issues involving their mental health, trauma or suicidal thoughts.
- Some people who had attempted suicide were dismissed or judged by healthcare staff due to drinking alcohol.
- There’s a need for further exploration of people’s experiences of alcohol and suicide, so that voices of lived experience are at the centre of policymaking.
My hope is that professionals start to see that alcohol use is often the result of an underlying issue and not simply tell people to sober up without offering further support for how to deal with the root cause of the problem.
Lived experience survey respondent
What are we calling for?
- We want to see further investment in alcohol and mental health services to increase their capacity and expertise.
- We are calling on the people who are responsible for planning and funding healthcare services to explore how they can work together more closely, so that they can address the person rather than the ‘problem’.
- We think that staff in all healthcare settings that might come into contact with people who have attempted suicide should receive training which covers the complex role that alcohol can play in suicide attempts, based on evidence from people with lived experience.
- Further work with people who have lived experience is needed to develop our understanding so that help can come earlier, long before people reach a crisis point.