Spotting the signs: a personal insight into suicide

Suicide is described as a permanent solution to a temporary problem

Suicide is described as a permanent solution to a temporary problem - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, with twelve males taking their lives every day in Britain.

I have heard it described as a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

I wonder if as well as myths and preconceptions, there is also a lack of empathy for what people go through when they reach such levels of despair?

Aged about ten, I remember my dad crying into a towel in the bathroom saying he didn't want to go on anymore. I have countless memories of him saying he was going to "jump off Blackfriars Bridge" on his way to work.

He actually died years later of alcoholism which I have often heard referred to as 'suicide in instalments' and I would say that is befitting in his case.

At university I decided to undertake some volunteer training with Samaritans, an organisation that works with people having suicidal thoughts or planning to end their lives.  

It is was really interesting to meet the other people and to gain insight into mental health and people's stories. 

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We listened in on calls from suicidal people to the helpline as part of the training and what struck me was the  non-judgemental approach and the respect for the human right to choose.

One volunteer told me that he had had a call from a man to say thank you for everything and that he wanted to say goodbye before he ended his own life. 

At the time I remember thinking that surely they should call the police or a doctor to help the man? Surely they should talk the man out of killing himself? However, on further exploration of their standpoint, I realised that that is what made the organisation unique. 

Since then I have lost two very close male friends - both of whom killed themselves by hanging. 

Prior to both of their deaths, they had had conversations with me about wanting to kill themselves. Both had been given the chance of 'help' and both had made an active choice that they no longer wanted to live.

Suicide is a complex and distressing act which is sometimes carefully considered and determined. It is hard for people who are not living with that difficult mental torture to comprehend why anybody could make a measured decision to end their own life yet some do and ultimately that is their choice. 

Signs that somebody might need some support:

1.They drop 'hints' about ways they might end their life, such as commenting on ropes, loft hatches, or hunting out a tree.

2. Writing you a letter or email that entails gathering bits of their life into order such as wills, life insurance and debts, and telling you things you might need to know about the house such as where the stopcock is.

3. Living like there is no tomorrow and taking risks such as drink-driving and making big purchases. (This needs to be viewed within the context of their usual life and not in isolation.)

4. Secretly stockpiling medication, alcohol or poisonous substances.

5. Posting cryptic - or not so cryptic - social media posts about life and death.

6. Showing indifferent attitudes to study or work life.

7. Increased use of drugs or alcohol.

8. Unusual purchases such as weapons. 

9. Expressing a sudden interest in other people who have taken their own life such as Kurt Cobain.

When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at, or visit to find your nearest branch.

PAPYRUS HOPELINEUK is a confidential support and advice service for:

  • Children and young people under the age of 35 who are experiencing thoughts of suicide
  • Anyone concerned that a young person could be thinking about suicide

HOPELINEUK advisors want to work with you to understand why these thoughts of suicide might be present. They also want to provide you with a safe space to talk through anything happening in your life that could be impacting on your or anyone else’s ability to stay safe.

Call: 0800 068 41 41

Text: 07860 039 967