Prisoners are more likely to take their own lives

Prisoners are 5-10 times more likely to take their own lives than those in the general population, making them a high priority for the work of Samaritans.

Samaritans CEO, Ruth Sutherland said today, “Samaritans welcomes the government making prison reform a priority with an emphasis on education. We have been  running the  prisoner Listener scheme for 25 years, giving prisoners the same training as Samaritans’ volunteers  to develop listening and other skills which raise their self-esteem and give them confidence.”

The scheme which operates in more than 140 prisons in the UK and ROI, started after the suicide of a 15 year old boy in HMP Swansea; it has highlighted the need for extra support especially for those newly arrived in prison. The scheme trains prisoners to support each other, teaches them to recognise vulnerabilities in their fellow prisoners and ultimately could be seen to help promote a calmer and more settled environment in  prisons.

In 2014 in the UK more than 1500 trained listeners answered 75,000 requests for support from their fellow prisoners

“With government attention on this issue Samaritans hopes that we can work together to ensure people have the support they need, that money can be put to the best use and that fewer people die by suicide in our prisons,” Ruth said.

Former prisoners like Dean tell us how much being a Listener has meant to them.

Dean said: “I found being a Listener rewarding, it has really changed me and helped me. It taught me a lesson. My voice used to be the only one that was important.  I have been a Listener co-ordinator in prison and spoken several times at Samaritans conferences. I also do crime prevention work with youngsters, which includes taking them into prison and showing them what it is like.”

Samaritans’ research evidence supports Dean’s claims that the Listener scheme changes lives and gives prisoners the opportunity to gain skills and self-esteem. It not only helps those who receive support – but has a wider impact on the prison population by helping those who become Listeners to give back and gain a lot from doing so.



Notes for editors

**The suicide rate in the UK in 2014 was 10.8 per 100,000 (ONS, 2016).

  • You don’t have to be suicidal to call us. Whatever you’re going through, call us free any time from any phone on 116 123 (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill), email, or visit to find details of your nearest branch.
  • It’s the public’s kind donations and more than 21,000 trained volunteers that mean Samaritans is always there for anyone struggling to cope. For more information please call Sue Royal on the Samaritans Press team on 0208 394 8348 or email for out of hours enquiries please call 07943 809162