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Staff Counselling Centre


A Conversation could save a life – that’s well worth talking about

World Suicide Prevention Day - Thursday 10th September 2020

Talking could change your life - Let's break the Taboo!


 Hope 2

Suicide is the most common cause of death in men under 50, eclipsing all the common physical ailments that we are generally comfortable speaking about, such as heart disease, cancer, heart attacks and road traffic accidents. It is estimated that around one in five of us have suicidal thoughts at some point in our lives (MIND).

Worldwide in 2016, 800,000 people died by suicide, according to the World Health Organisation.  Meanwhile, the Samaritans report that in 2017 there were 6,213 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland, rising by over 600 in 2018; the equivalent of half the staff of this University dying by suicide in one year. In the UK, the highest suicide rate is for men aged 45-49. This appears to be related to many issues including men’s perceptions of the societal expectations of them, isolation and socio-economic factors.   The suicide rate for men has always been significantly higher than for women, although worryingly, female suicide is currently on the rise.

The impact of just one suicide is estimated to affect around 20 other people too, though it may be many more.  Sadly, often the seemingly insurmountable problems that lead to suicide are temporary, while the “solution” is permanent. Suicide is preventable – yet the taboo surrounding it means that it is frequently avoided as a subject for discussion even though an intervention could save a life! 

People often fear that mentioning ‘the word’ might implant the idea in someone and increase the probability of suicide.  However, the Zero Suicide Alliance maintains that this is NOT the case, and that there is no evidence to support this belief.  Rather, for the individual concerned it may well be a relief to be “given permission” to talk openly.

‘So what can I do if I am concerned about a friend, a colleague or a loved one?’

Never underestimate the potential value of an intervention.  Most people who commit suicide have not been in recent contact with any mental health services.  You really could save a life.

  • Encourage a calm conversation with the person about emotions.  Be open about your concerns
  • Ask them if they are thinking about ending their life; remember that suicide may seem to them to be the only option left.  Be direct. Do not avoid the words suicide or killing yourself 
  • Be alert for words such as “pointless” and “hopeless”, excessive mention of death, or being a burden
  • Notice if they seem to be saying goodbyes, however obtusely
  • Are they seeming to get their affairs in order, or giving possessions away
  • Are they increasingly under the influence of drugs (prescribed or otherwise) or alcohol
  • Are they displaying increasingly risky behaviours (e.g. reckless driving)
  • Ask who else knows about how they are currently feeling, who is there to support them
  • Have you noticed a  sudden and unexpected “recovery” from feeling low
  • Never assume that a person who has talked about suicide before and not taken action, will not do so this time
  • Be particularly careful to be non-judgemental (avoid telling them they will be causing distress to their loved ones for example, as this may worsen their despair)

If a suicidal plan is disclosed and the person has the means to act, assume that the risk is imminent and act immediately; dial 999 or 111 (First Response Service) and ask for option 2.  Do NOT put yourself at personal risk, especially if this person is not well-known to you, but ensure that help is sought straightaway

If the person is having suicidal thoughts but has no active plan, signpost appropriate help (GP, Counselling, Helplines) and check-up who they can speak to for immediate support (friends, family, colleagues).  Isolation is an important risk-factor in suicidality.  If you do help someone who is feeling suicidal, remember you too may need support.

  • Know where to signpost for help



111 option 2 (Cambridge and Peterborough) (24/7)



116123 (24/7)



0808 808 2121 (7pm -11pm nightly)


CALM (Campaign against Living Miserable) – for men

0808 585 858 (5.00pm to midnight every day)


Papyrus – advice for young people at risk of suicide

0800 068 4141