In the UK alone, there are still over 5,000 suicides each year, and many, many more attempts. Because it is often the young who kill themselves, we lose well over 100,000 life years to suicide. Still more people experience persistent and disturbing suicidal feelings - according to an NHS source, three times as many people think about suicide as attempt it.
Suicide also affects an estimated average of 6 to 28 family members and friends, who will experience the social and psychological consequences of the suicide of a person close to them.
The majority of suicide research to date has focused on external, observable risk factors such as gender, bereavement, unemployment, substance abuse, self-harming behaviour and so on. Other research has focused on exploring the relationship between mental illness (in particular depression) and suicide, or on suicidal thoughts and ideation.
A relative lack of attention has been paid to the experience of suicidal feelings, which we think is just as relevant to understanding suicide, if not more so. Of course, once a suicide has happened, the one person we could ask about this experience is gone. But there are many people alive today who have experienced a suicidal crisis, have attempted suicide, or have felt suicidal. We believe that they are foremost among the real experts on suicide.
The aim of The Experience of Suicidal Feelings is to understand suicidal feelings from the perspective of those who experience them, and to use this knowledge to help people offer more appropriate support to those at risk.
Read an overview of The Experience of Suicidal Feelings study.
Take a look at the questionnaires used in Stage 1 of this study.
Only one in four people who kill themselves are in contact with mental health services. This means that the people who stand the most chance of preventing suicides are ordinary people: the friends, colleagues, neighbours and family members of those whose lives are at risk.
Yet the role of ordinary members of the community in suicide prevention is mostly left unrecognised and unsupported. It has also been under-researched.
The aim of our New Focus for Suicide Prevention project is to develop an understanding of the process of suicide from the perspective of those who have attempted suicide and those who have been bereaved by suicide. We want to enable more people to prevent suicides by recognising and responding to the signs someone is at risk.
Health care professionals will also benefit from increased understanding of the process of suicide. Despite all the research to date, predicting a suicide is still incredibly difficult and care providers are not always able to respond appropriately where a risk is identified.
Read an overview of the A New Focus For Suicide Prevention study.