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We must remain alert to emerging risk factors for suicide and also recognise how known risk factors may be exacerbated—and existing trends and inequalities entrenched—by the pandemic. In 2019 suicide rates among men in England and Wales were the highest since 2000 and, although suicide in young people is relatively rare, rates have been rising in 10-24 year olds since 2010.

Tackling known risk factors that are likely to be exacerbated by the pandemic is crucial; these include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, hopelessness, feelings of entrapment and burdensomeness, substance misuse, loneliness, domestic violence, child neglect or abuse, unemployment and other financial insecurity. Appropriate services must be made available for people in crisis and those with new or existing mental health problems.

Of greatest concern is the effect of economic damage from the pandemic. One study reported that, after the 2008 economic crisis, rates of suicide increased in two thirds of the 54 countries studied, particularly among men and in countries with higher job losses.

Appropriate safety nets must be put in place, or strengthened, for people facing financial hardship, along with active labour market policies to help people who are unemployed obtain work. Responsible media reporting also has a role; promoting the importance of mental health support, signposting sources of help, reporting stories of hope and recovery and avoiding alarmist and speculative headlines that may heighten risk of suicide.

It is still too early to say what the ultimate effect of the pandemic will be on suicide rates. Data so far provide some reassurance, but the overall picture is complex. The pandemic has had variable effects globally, within countries and across communities, so a universal effect on suicide rates is unlikely. The impact on suicide will vary over time, and differ according to national gross domestic product, and individual characteristics such as socioeconomic position, ethnicity and mental health.


One guiding principle, however, is that suicide is preventable, and action should be taken now to protect people’s mental health. We must remain vigilant and responsive, sharing evidence early and internationally (such as in the International COVID-19 Suicide Prevention Research Collaboration) in these evolving uncertain times.


What does it feel like to be suicidal?


Different people have different experiences of suicidal feelings. You might feel unable to cope with the difficult feelings you are experiencing. You may feel less like you want to die and more like you cannot go on living the life you have.

These feelings may build over time or might change from moment to moment. And it's common to not understand why you feel this way.


How you might think or feel

  • hopeless, like there is no point in living

  • tearful and overwhelmed by negative thoughts

  • unbearable pain that you can't imagine ending

  • useless, not wanted or not needed by others

  • desperate, as if you have no other choice

  • like everyone would be better off without you

  • cut off from your body or physically numb

  • fascinated by death. 


What you may experience

  • poor sleep, including waking up earlier than you want to

  • a change in appetite, weight gain or loss

  • no desire to take care of yourself, for example neglecting your physical appearance

  • wanting to avoid others

  • making a will or giving away possessions

  • struggling to communicate

  • self-loathing and low self-esteem

  • urges to self-harm


How long will I feel suicidal?


How long suicidal feelings last is different for everyone. It is common to feel as if you'll never be happy or hopeful again.

But with treatment and support, including self-care, the majority of people who have felt suicidal go on to live fulfilling lives.

The earlier you let someone know how you're feeling, the quicker you'll be able to get support to overcome these feelings. But it can feel difficult to open up to people.

You may want others to understand what you're going through, but you might feel:

  • unable to tell someone

  • unsure of who to tell

  • concerned that they won't understand

  • fearful of being judged

  • worried you'll upset them.


If you feel like this, you might find it helpful to show our pages on supporting someone else with suicidal feelings to someone you trust. This can be a good way of starting the conversation and can give them suggestions of how they can help you.

It's important to remember that you deserve support, you are not alone and there is support out there.

"Sharing that I felt suicidal with close friends, although scary as I worried they'd be angry, has helped me in subsequent black times. They said they'd hate to lose me having not been given the chance to help."

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