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Suicidal thoughts are a major concern for mental health professionals in the UK. According to recent statistics, suicide is the leading cause of death for individuals aged between 20 and 34 years old in England and Wales, and in 2021, there were 5,583 registered suicides in the UK [1]. 

The issue of suicidal thoughts is not limited to any particular region in the UK, but London has the highest rate of self-harm-related hospital admissions in the country. Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or socioeconomic status. 

Continue reading as we explore more about suicidal thoughts, their symptoms, causes, and treatment options available in the UK. We will also provide helpful tips on coping with suicidal thoughts and where to seek help.

Suicidal thoughts are a serious and often life-threatening symptom of mental illness. Suicidal thoughts can be defined as thoughts of ending one’s own life or causing oneself serious harm, often in response to intense emotional pain or feelings of hopelessness and despair [2]. 

Here, we will explore what suicidal thoughts are, how they are classified, and what the risk factors for suicide are.

Classification of Suicidal Thoughts

Suicidal thoughts are classified into two main categories: passive and active [3]. Passive suicidal ideation involves thoughts of death or self-harm without any specific plan or intention to act on these thoughts. Active suicidal ideation, on the other hand, involves both the desire and the plan to end one’s own life.

The Manifestation of Suicidal Thoughts

Suicidal thoughts can manifest in many different ways. Some people experience fleeting thoughts of suicide, while others have persistent and intrusive thoughts that can be difficult to shake. Others may experience suicidal thoughts in response to specific triggers, such as a recent loss or a traumatic event. [4]. 

The severity and frequency of suicidal thoughts can also vary, with some people experiencing occasional thoughts of suicide, and others experiencing constant, pervasive thoughts.

What Causes Suicidal Thoughts? The Mechanisms Explained

The exact mechanisms behind suicidal thoughts are not fully understood, but research suggests that they are often a symptom of an underlying mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder [5]. 

Suicidal thoughts can be triggered by intense emotional pain, feelings of hopelessness, and a sense of being trapped or overwhelmed by one’s circumstances. Other factors that may contribute to suicidal thoughts include substance abuse, a history of trauma or abuse, and a family history of suicide or mental illness.

What Puts You at Risk

Many risk factors can increase a person’s likelihood of experiencing suicidal thoughts. These risk factors can include:

  • Mental health conditions – Mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety can increase a person’s risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts [5].
  • Substance abuse – Substance abuse can increase a person’s risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
  • Trauma or abuse – A history of trauma or abuse can increase a person’s risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts.
  • Family history – A family history of suicide or mental illness can increase a person’s risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts.
  • Chronic illness or pain – Chronic illness or pain can increase a person’s risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts, particularly if the condition is debilitating or terminal.
  • Social isolation – Social isolation can increase a person’s risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts, particularly if they lack social support or meaningful connections with others.

Suicidal thoughts are a serious and often life-threatening symptom of mental illness that affects people all around the world. In the UK, suicide is a major public health concern, with thousands of people dying by suicide each year [2]. Some key facts and figures related to suicidal thoughts in the UK are shared here.

  • In 2020, there were 5,224 suicides registered in England and Wales, which was 1.6% higher than in 2019 [3].
  • Suicide rates are highest among middle-aged men, with men accounting for around 75% of all suicides in the UK [2].
  • Suicide rates among young people have also been increasing in recent years. In 2020, there were 704 suicides registered among people aged 10-24, which was the highest number since 2001 [3].
  • Suicide is the leading cause of death among 5-19-year-olds in the UK [4].
  • Around one in five people will experience suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives [5].
  • Suicidal thoughts are often a symptom of an underlying mental health condition, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder [6].
  • Suicidal thoughts can be triggered by a variety of factors, including intense emotional pain, a sense of hopelessness or despair, and a feeling of being trapped or overwhelmed by one’s circumstances [6].
  • Risk factors for suicidal thoughts in the UK include poverty, social isolation, substance abuse, and a history of trauma or abuse [7].
  • There are effective treatments available for suicidal thoughts and behaviours, including medication, psychotherapy, and support groups [5].

Suicidal thoughts are a significant public health concern in the UK, with thousands of people dying by suicide each year. Suicide rates are highest among middle-aged men, but young people are also at risk. Suicidal thoughts are often a symptom of an underlying mental health condition and can be triggered by a variety of factors. 

Suicidal thoughts can stem from a variety of factors, including mental health disorders. Below is a list of mental health disorders that are associated with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts [2]:

  • Depression: Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders linked to suicidal thoughts. Up to 60% of people who die by suicide have depression or another mood disorder [3]. Depression can make individuals feel hopeless, helpless, and alone, which can lead to suicidal thoughts.
  • Bipolar disorder: People with bipolar disorder experience extreme highs (mania) and lows (depression). During a depressive episode, people with bipolar disorder may experience suicidal thoughts or behaviours.
  • Anxiety disorders: Anxiety disorders, such as generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have been linked to an increased risk of suicidal thoughts [4]. Anxiety can be overwhelming and, if left untreated, can lead to depression and hopelessness.
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD): BPD is a personality disorder characterised by unstable moods, behaviours, and relationships. People with BPD may experience chronic feelings of emptiness, impulsivity, and suicidal thoughts or behaviours [5].
  • Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia is a severe mental health disorder characterised by delusions, hallucinations, and disordered thinking. People with schizophrenia are at an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviours [6].

It is important to note that not everyone with these mental health disorders will experience suicidal thoughts or behaviours. However, if you or someone you know is struggling with any of these mental health disorders and is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional immediately.

Identifying suicidal thoughts can be difficult because people often hide their feelings and emotions. However, recognizing the warning signs of suicide can save a life. Here are some common signs to look for [2]:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Talking about feeling trapped or like there is no way out
  • Sudden mood swings, including agitation or anger
  • Engaging in risky behaviours, such as drug or alcohol abuse
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Giving away prised possessions
  • Saying goodbye to loved ones or making arrangements for after their death

It’s important to remember that not everyone who is considering suicide will exhibit these signs, and sometimes people who do exhibit these signs may not be considering suicide. 

There are some evidence-based methods and scales for assessing the risk of suicide. Some of these include [3]:

  • The Suicide Behaviours Questionnaire-Revised (SBQ-R)
  • The Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS)
  • The Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS)
  • The Suicide Intent Scale (SIS)

These scales are often used by mental health professionals to assess the risk of suicide in their patients. They can help identify those who are at a higher risk of suicide and provide appropriate interventions.

In addition, mental health professionals may also use the following methods to assess the risk of suicide [5]:

  • A thorough psychiatric evaluation to determine the presence of any underlying mental health conditions
  • A physical examination to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may contribute to suicidal thoughts
  • Psychological testing to assess the patient’s overall mental health and the severity of their symptoms
  • A review of the patient’s personal and family history of mental health conditions, substance abuse, and suicide attempts.

Suicidal thoughts can be a difficult and sensitive issue to deal with, but various evidence-based treatments and methods can help individuals struggling with this problem. Here we will explore some of the best ways to treat suicidal thoughts in the UK.


Psychotherapy is a commonly used treatment for suicidal ideation. It involves talking to a trained mental health professional who can help identify the underlying causes of suicidal thoughts and provide support and guidance to develop healthier coping mechanisms. 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an effective type of psychotherapy that helps treat suicidal ideation [2]. Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) is another type of therapy that is effective in reducing suicidal ideation [3].


Medication can be prescribed to treat underlying mental health disorders that can cause suicidal thoughts, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. 

Antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilisers are some of the commonly used medications to treat suicidal thoughts. However, medication should always be used in conjunction with psychotherapy for the best results [4].

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment centers can provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals at high risk of suicide. Inpatient treatment involves staying at a mental health facility for some time to receive intensive treatment and support. 

The aim is to help individuals manage their suicidal thoughts and learn coping mechanisms to prevent future suicide attempts. Luxury inpatient treatment centers offer high-end facilities with personalised treatment plans and a range of amenities to make the experience as comfortable as possible [5].

Crisis Intervention

Crisis intervention involves immediate support and intervention for individuals who are in a state of crisis and at high risk of suicide. This type of intervention may include emergency medical attention, hospitalization, or talking to a crisis helpline. It can help individuals gain immediate relief from their suicidal thoughts and develop a plan for ongoing treatment and support [6].

Peer Support Groups

Peer support groups offer a space for individuals to connect with others who have experienced similar struggles with suicidal thoughts. 

This type of support can provide a sense of community and validation, which can help reduce feelings of isolation and hopelessness. Peer support groups can be found online or in person, and can be led by trained professionals or peers who have experienced similar struggles[6].

Mindfulness-Based Interventions

Mindfulness-based interventions, such as mindfulness meditation or yoga, can help individuals learn to be more present and self-aware. These practices have been found to reduce depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation in individuals with a history of suicide attempts. 

Mindfulness can help individuals become more aware of their thoughts and feelings, which can lead to more effective coping strategies.

Coping with suicidal thoughts can be incredibly challenging, but it is possible. Here are ten steps to help you manage your suicidal thoughts in the UK:

Recognise the warning signs: Suicidal thoughts often come with warning signs, such as feeling hopeless, overwhelmed, or trapped. By recognizing these signs, you can take action before the thoughts become overwhelming [3].

Talk to someone: It can be difficult to open up about suicidal thoughts, but talking to someone you trust can help you feel less alone. Consider reaching out to a friend, family member, or therapist for support [3].

Avoid isolation: When you’re feeling down, it’s easy to withdraw from social activities. However, spending time with friends and family can help boost your mood and provide distractions from suicidal thoughts [2].

Practice self-care: Taking care of yourself is essential when coping with suicidal thoughts. Make sure to prioritise sleep, exercise, and healthy eating [5].

Identify triggers: Certain situations or people may trigger suicidal thoughts. By identifying these triggers, you can take steps to avoid or manage them [3].

Create a safety plan: A safety plan is a personalised set of steps to take when you’re feeling suicidal. It can include contacting a crisis hotline, reaching out to a friend, or engaging in a self-soothing activity [9].

Engage in pleasurable activities: When you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, it can be hard to find enjoyment in activities. However, engaging in activities you enjoy, such as listening to music or going for a walk, can help improve your mood [3].

Challenge negative thoughts: Suicidal thoughts are often accompanied by negative self-talk. It’s essential to challenge these thoughts and remind yourself of your strengths and accomplishments [6].

Seek professional help: If your suicidal thoughts are persistent or overwhelming, it may be time to seek professional help. Consider reaching out to your GP, therapist, or local mental health services for support [8].

Consider inpatient or luxury treatment centers: In some cases, suicidal thoughts may require more intensive treatment. Inpatient or luxury treatment centers offer round-the-clock support and a safe space for individuals to receive treatment [7].

t is important to recognise that suicidal thoughts are a serious issue in the UK. They can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or social status. It is crucial to understand that suicidal thoughts are not a sign of weakness and seeking help is a sign of strength.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it is essential to seek professional help immediately. Numerous evidence-based treatments and methods are available, such as therapy, medication, and support groups. In addition, it is important to take steps to cope with suicidal thoughts, such as building a strong support system, practicing self-care, and seeking help when needed.

It is essential to raise awareness about suicidal thoughts and to provide access to resources for those who need them. By the virtue of working together, we can help prevent suicide and support those struggling with their mental health.

  1. Office for National Statistics. Suicides in England and Wales: 2021 registrations.
  2. Medical News Today. What is suicidal ideation?
  3. Healthline. How to Manage Thoughts of Suicide and Get Support.
  4. Very Well Mind. What Is Suicidal Ideation?
  5. Mayo Clinic. Suicide and suicidal thoughts.
  6. National Library Of Medicine. Suicidal Ideation.
  7. Wikipedia. Suicidal ideation.
  8. Mind. Suicidal feelings.
  9. Help Guide. Are You Feeling Suicidal?


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