People in prison are significantly more likely to die by suicide than people in the general population.
In 2018 alone, there were 92 self-inflicted deaths in prisons in England and Wales. At Samaritans, we see the enormous scale of emotional distress in prisons – last year alone we provided emotional support to people in prison more than 300,000 times. We also see the wide range of concerns that underpin their distress.
Our report, Unlocking the evidence: Understanding suicide in prisons, brings together data from the Samaritans service with analysis of the wider literature on suicide in prisons. The report deepens out understanding of the reasons behind the high rate of suicide in prisons.
In prisons, suicide risk is a combination of life experiences before imprisonment and the pains of prison life.
Our research confirms that key risk factors, especially mental ill-health, past self-harm, traumatic life experiences and a background of disadvantage are disproportionately common among prisoners. This puts them at a higher risk of suicide before they have even entered prison.
Features unique to the prison environment such as social and physical isolation, uncertainty about sentencing, inconsistent regime and greater likelihood of exposure to suicide can make this risk worse.
'Being a Listener, I’ve come to see how much anguish, pain, suffering and loneliness is out there, and I’ve come to understand how important Listeners are, and what we represent’ - Listener, HMP Exeter