Suicide reporting: some facts about suicide

Only Samaritans routinely collects suicide statistics for the UK, England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and ROI in one place

  • Suicide is a significant social inequality and public health issue, with more than 6,000 people across the UK and ROI taking their own lives each year. Tens of thousands more attempt suicide.
  • Suicide is more common in some groups than others. For example, it is much more likely among men than women, and in particular, men in their 30s, 40s and 50s, from lower socio-economic groups. Suicide accounts for more deaths than road traffic accidents, particularly in people under the age of 35.
  • There is no simple explanation for why someone chooses to die by suicide and it is rarely due to one particular factor. Mental health problems are important influences, as well as alcohol and substance misuse, feeling desperate, helpless or without hope.
  • People who have self-harmed or made a serious attempt at suicide in the past are more likely to do so again, and are therefore at much greater risk of dying by suicide in the future.
  • Some people considering suicide may hint at or even declare to friends or relatives that they intend to take their own lives. Other people who are feeling suicidal might not mention it at all or give any indication of their intention.
  • Various characteristics of the reporting of suicide are thought to increase the risk of imitative behaviour.
  • These characteristics include: information about the method of suicide, prominent or repetitive reporting, or where the person involved is a celebrity.
  • Young people are particularly vulnerable to imitational suicides. Research shows they are the group most likely to be influenced by the media.
  • In response to evidence indicating that inappropriate reporting of suicide can lead to imitational deaths, many countries have incorporated responsible media reporting into national suicide prevention strategies.
  • Most people who make suicide attempts or who die by suicide are not in contact with healthcare services in the month before their attempt or death. Only half of all people who die by suicide have ever been in contact with specialist mental health services.
  • The medical and/or psychiatric conditions that could lead a person to take their own life are potentially treatable.
  • The media can play a positive role in raising awareness of suicide as a social and public health issue. It can inform the public about suicide, the signs to look out for and promote the fact that suicide is preventable. The media can help reduce the risk of suicide by highlighting sources of help, such as Samaritans.