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There is some evidence that suicide rates are unequal between different ethnic groups.
Suicide is complex, and people with particular identities or backgrounds can be at higher risk. There isn’t enough data to give us a full picture but we know that that suicide rates vary between ethnic groups, with the highest rates among the White and Mixed ethnicity groups (14.9 and 14.7 deaths per 100,000 population respectively). Both the ‘White’ and ‘Mixed’ categories in these figures are broad and cover a number of different identities. It is important to avoid generalisations though: ethnicity is just one part of someone’s identity. We know that age, sex and being in poverty, for example, are also really important when it comes to suicide risk.
Racism and discrimination can cause some of the feelings that can come before suicidal thoughts like feeling like you are a burden, feeling you don’t belong or feeling trapped. It can also impact job opportunities and income – which, in turn, affects suicide risk because poorer people are at higher risk. There is also lots of evidence around the ways that experiences of racism can harm people’s mental health.
People from different ethnic groups don’t always receive the same level of support from mental health services when they need it. For example, young people from minoritised ethnicity backgrounds are less likely to receive specialist assessment following self-harm, compared to White young people. And people from minoritised ethnicity backgrounds can be seen by mental health professionals to be at lower risk of suicide because they might be thinking of only one way that suicidality is expressed rather than the fact that this can vary depending on people’s backgrounds, cultures and beliefs.
Three key changes we would like to see are:
- Proper data collected on suicide and ethnicity, including ethnicity recorded on all death certificates
- Suicide prevention care and support that recognises the impact that racism and discrimination can have on people’s wellbeing and suicide risk
- Better understanding in health services and in suicide prevention research of the different ways that suicidality, suicide risk and stigma can happen in different communities
We will be pushing for changes including through national suicide prevention strategies and real-time suicide surveillance systems that are being developed across the UK and Ireland. We’re also committed to breaking down barriers to reach a wider range of communities and make Samaritans more diverse and inclusive.
Read our full policy position on ethnicity and suicide below.