We want all our students to feel able to share how they are feeling and feel confident to seek support. Having thoughts of ending your life, particularly during periods of low mood or stress, is common.

We will post blogs over the next few weeks to shed light on breaking the stigma of suicide and mental health, suicide prevention resources, and how people can support one another and themselves if feeling suicidal.

What is suicide?

Suicide is when someone ends their own life. It’s a very tragic response to difficult situations and feelings, perhaps most tragic because it is preventable. Thousands of people in the UK end their lives by suicide each year, and one in five of us think about suicide in our lifetimes.

Suicidal thoughts and feelings can be complex, frightening, confusing, and lonely.

There is no single reason why people die by suicide. Social, psychological, and cultural factors can contribute to a person being at greater risk.

Learning about the risk factors linked to suicidal thoughts, and how it can be prevented, may save a life. This may be someone else’s or your own.

Signs of suicidal thoughts

A change in someone’s personality and behaviour might be a sign that they are having suicidal thoughts. You may be the best judge of when someone you know is behaving differently.

Changes can include:

  • becoming anxious
  • being more irritable or confrontational
  • becoming quiet
  • having mood swings
  • acting recklessly
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • not wanting to be around other people
  • having different problems with work or studies
  • saying negative things about themselves

There are some indicators that suggest someone is more likely to attempt suicide. These include:

  • threatening to hurt or kill themselves
  • talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide
  • preparing to end their life by storing up medication, for example

Signs that something is wrong can sometimes be more difficult to spot such as cheeriness which may seem fake. Or they may joke about their emotions, saying something quite alarming disguised as a joke.

Don’t ignore your gut feeling if you are concerned about someone.

What might contribute to feeling suicidal?

There is no single reason why people die by suicide. People think of suicide for many different reasons. Social, economic, psychological, and genetic factors can contribute to a person being at greater risk of suicide.

Risk factors might include:

  • difficult life events, such as a traumatic childhood or experiencing abuse
  • something upsetting or life-changing, such as a relationship ending or a loved one dying
  • misusing drugs or alcohol
  • living alone or having little social contact with other people
  • having a mental health condition such as depression
  • self-harming
  • having a physical health condition, especially if this causes chronic pain or disability
  • problems with work or money
  • being part of marginalised and discriminated-against groups such as BAME or LGBTQ+ groups

Phone numbers and resources

If you are experiencing thoughts of harming yourself, or concerned for someone you know, you can call Papyrus on 0800 068 4141, or Samaritans on 116 123, for confidential advice and support.

If you need a friendly chat about how you’re feeling and the support that is available to you at university, come and speak with the Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity Service (SWIS). You can contact SWIS either via email at wellbeing@essex.ac.uk, or by coming to the Wellbeing Drop-In service.

During evenings and weekends, you can contact the 24-Hour Student Wellbeing Support Line on 0800 970 5020. You can also access our SilverCloud and Togetherall online support programmes at any time.