Physical illness may be the trigger for one in ten suicides


Some of the risk factors for suicide are well known.  Research shows that mental illness is the most significant risk factor and we also know that gender plays a big part (men are at greater risk).  However, some of the other potential risk factors are less well study, such as the impact that serious physical illness can have.

This new report from the think-tank Demos uses a number of techniques (literature review, freedom of information requests, semi-structured interviews with coroners and an in-depth case study) to explore the relationship between chronic and terminal illness and suicide.

The research suggests that many of the patients studied chose to commit suicide rather than face more severe pain later on in their disease.

The study also finds wide variation in how verdicts of suicide are recorded by coroners and made available to the public and policymakers. Coroners told researchers they sometimes “turn a blind eye” when they suspect that a terminally ill person might have had help from a friend or relative in committing suicide.

The study recommends that, as part of the Government’s ongoing consultation on preventing suicide, they should consider making local suicide audits compulsory and that coroners’ duty to share information should be formalised.

Bazalgette L, Bradley W, Ousbey J. The truth about suicide (PDF). Demos, 23 Aug 2011.

If you need help

If you need help and support now and you live in the UK or the Republic of Ireland, please call the Samaritans on 116 123.

If you live elsewhere, we recommend finding a local Crisis Centre on the IASP website.

We also highly recommend that you visit the Connecting with People: Staying Safe resource.

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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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