More than 55,000 people end their own lives in the European Union each year. In England, that figure is 4,722 - that's one death every two hours - and at least 10 times that number attempt suicide

Around 78% of suicides are men and in almost all cultures, the suicide rate rises with age. The highest rates of suicide in the UK are among people aged 45 to 49 years and it remains a common cause of death in men aged 40 to 44 with 26.9 deaths per 100,000 people.

Risk Factors

Certain factors are known to be associated with increased risk of suicide. These include: 

  • drug and alcohol misuse
  • history of trauma or abuse
  • unemployment
  • social isolation
  • poverty
  • poor social conditions
  • imprisonment
  • violence
  • family breakdown.

People with a diagnosed mental health condition are at particular risk. More than 90% of suicides and suicide attempts are associated with a psychiatric disorder, the majority of which are depressive disorders.

Those at the highest risk of suicide are people suffering from alcoholism, clinical depression or schizophrenia. Previous suicide attempts are also an indication of particular risk. Up to 16% of survivors try again within a year, with 2% of repeat attempts being fatal.

For young people, bullying, family turmoil, mental health problems, unemployment and a family history of suicide can play a part in increasing the risk of suicide. Among young people, 80% of suicides are male, and one in three young people who take their lives are intoxicated at the time of death.

For older people, poverty, poor quality housing, social isolation, depression and physical health problems are factors which can increase the risk of suicide.


Feeling suicidal is often a temporary state of mind. If appropriate and timely help and emotional support is offered to people who are experiencing deep unhappiness and distress, this can reduce the risk of them choosing to end their own life. 

Following a focused campaign in recent years, numbers of suicides among younger men aged 25 - 34 ā€“ previously the highest ā€“ has been on a downward trend.

Attempts at suicide are often preceded by certain signs. These can include evidence of deliberate self-harm and the person in question expressing their thoughts in the year before the act to relatives, partners, peers or professionals. These offer potential opportunities to intervene and save lives. 

Despite this, three-quarters of all people who end their own lives are not in contact with mental health services.

Prevention of suicide is not the exclusive responsibility of any one sector of society. Schools can create cultures in which young people feel it is healthy to talk through emotional and other difficulties.  General practitioners can restrict the number of tablets prescribed to those at risk of overdose.  Accident and Emergency staff can ensure all young people who have attempted suicide receive specialist mental health assessment. And each of us can  pay close attention to the overall mental health of our loved ones to reduce the risks of them taking their lives.

Public Health England have produced suicide prevention guidance in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day 2015. 

Recovery from a suicide attempt

The attitudes we hold toward people who attempt to take their lives can influence the course of their condition.The isolation that suicidal people feel can be reinforced by a judgmental approach in which their behaviour is viewed as manipulative or selfish. By stepping beyond our personal assumptions, and showing care and respect for the people behind the behaviours, we can help them talk about their feelings and help prevent suicide taking place.

U Can Cope

In 2012 the Mental Health Foundation collaborated in the production 'U Can Cope', a film which was made to raise awareness and provide help and support on World Suicide Prevention Day.  The film aims to spread the message that it is possible to overcome suicidal thoughts and feelings and that there are many resources available to help those who are struggling to cope.

Find out more about the myths and misconceptions of suicide.

Getting Help

Get help for yourself or someone you know.

Samaritans provide emotional support 24-hours per day - in full confidence. Give them a call on:

08457 90 90 90 (UK)*

1850 60 90 90 (ROI)*

Support Us

We are the UK's leading mental health research, policy and service improvement charity. Find out how you can support us and help us continue our life-saving work.

Related Information

If you're suicidal...

If you need someone to talk to urgently and in confidence the Samaritans are able to offer emotional support 24 hours a day on 08457 90 90 90. You can also email or visit the Samaritans website.

If someone else tells you that they feel suicidal, always take it seriously and encourage them to seek professional help.

Further information