How is the UK tackling suicide rates, and how can support for those affected by suicide improve?

1 September 2022

The Office for National Statistics’ published data shows that 4912 deaths by suicide were registered for England in 2020, with an overall suicide rate of 10 per 100,000. A further 285 deaths were registered as suicides in Wales for the year, with a rate of 10.3 per 100,000. 

It’s clear that many people in the UK remain at risk of suicide, with devastating consequences for families, friends and all those close to the deceased person. 

What is the government doing to tackle suicide rates? 

First published in 2012, the national suicide prevention strategy Preventing Suicide in England: A cross-government outcomes strategy to save lives aims to lower suicide rates in England and identify how support for those bereaved and affected by suicide can be improved. 

A funding pot of £57 million has been allocated up to 2023/24 to put in place local suicide prevention plans and to establish better bereavement support services. 

Although any suicide is one too many, encouragingly the early statistics for suicides registered during the pandemic have not shown an increase despite fears over pressures caused by lockdowns and uncertainty. 

However, the challenges people face are still out there and growing, particularly with the rise of social media in recent years. Recently, MP Chris Philp announced in Parliament that a new offence is to be created making it illegal to encourage or assist someone to self-harm as part of a raft of new online safety laws. 

Proposals are still to be passed into law, but this will be a positive and important step in helping to protect people online.

A consultation that aims to improve support for those bereaved by suicide

The Support After Suicide Partnership is a network of over 80 members and supporters founded in 2013 and hosted by the Samaritans, with a vision that everyone bereaved or affected by suicide is offered timely and appropriate support.

SASP recently contributed to the national suicide prevention strategy, giving a professional viewpoint on suicide bereavement support and – given that those bereaved by suicide are nearly twice as likely to attempt suicide themselves – highlighting that comprehensive bereavement support also plays a crucial role in preventing suicides. 

Making bereavement support after suicide accessible to all 

Grief is different for everyone. Immediate practical and emotional support is essential, which can be tailored to each individual’s circumstances whether that’s to fit around childcare or work commitments, or to provide choice around the type of support a person needs. 

SASP identified that there’s often a lack of awareness of support available amongst health care professionals, police and coroners’ officers, and people can be reluctant to engage with those offering support. People may need many different types of support, from emotional and mental health support to practical guidance with financial, housing or probate matters.

There is certainly a need for specialist bereavement support following suicide, and for greater awareness amongst all agencies about how to signpost someone into the right sort of support for them.   

How can bereavement support for those affected by suicide be improved?

The SASP review found that there are gaps in support available for carers, people bereaved by suicide and front-line staff dealing with suicides. People close to someone who dies by suicide may not be limited to the person’s immediate family, and support needs to be expanded to include ‘chosen families’, children and young people in particular. 

Many settings experience suicide, from student accommodation and prisons to army barracks and schools. Leaders in all settings need to be better supported to identify suicide risk and to respond to suicides in a way that lessens risk for the future. 

It’s acknowledged that demand is already stretching capacity and funding, with that demand set to increase as awareness increases and services reach those who haven’t engaged with bereavement support before. SASP has found that vital support has reached people bereaved by suicide, but that gaps in support mean there’s a need for continued investment to achieve the government’s goals and – ultimately – save more lives.  

Practical bereavement support from the National Bereavement Service 

The National Bereavement Service supports anyone who has experienced a bereavement, including bereavement after a suicide, with practical and emotional information and advice from professional bereavement advisors with real, lived experience. 

We help you to comply with legal requirements, signpost you to providers such as funeral directors and solicitors, and provide a listening ear that helps you through a very difficult time. 

For personal, confidential, and practical help following a bereavement, call the National Bereavement Service free helpline on 0800 0246 121 or visit 

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