International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

21 November 2020

There were 5,691 suicides in England and Wales in 2019. That is 321 more than the year before. The suicide rate has remained the same as in 2018 – 11 deaths per 100,000 people, but the rates are still higher than in recent years.

Suicide is more common among some groups than others. For example, in the UK and Ireland men are 3-4 times more likely to die from suicide than women. The highest number of suicides are in men in their 40s and 50s from a lower socio-economic group. The less well-off are up to ten times more likely to take their own life than those in more affluent areas. The fastest rate of growth in suicide is in the under-25s age group. For example, the rate for females under 25 in England and Wales has increased by 93.8% since 2012.

More than 1 in 20 people make a suicide attempt at some point in their lives. Their choice of method is the most important determinant of whether they live or die.

Most people who die by suicide have an underlying mental health condition. If they succeed, family and friends are often left feelings of guilt, anxiety and depression. If unsuccessful, then the person themselves can be left with those feelings. For every suicide death at least six people are significantly affected by the complicated grief that follows. These people are all “suicide loss survivors”.

International Survivors of Suicide Day

This year, International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is Saturday, November 21, 2020. It’s the one day a year when people affected by suicide loss gather around the world at events in their local communities to find comfort and gain understanding as they share stories of healing and hope.

When someone takes their own life, they affect everyone who knew and loved them. For those people, grief and trauma can be especially difficult. Because the death is self-inflicted, coming to terms with the reasons and the stigma associated with it often makes it hard to grapple with, which is why they need all the support they can get.

Why international Survivors of Suicide Day is so important

Remembering the victims
Because of the nature of suicide, it can be harder to deal with the death of a loved one. Survivors Day reminds you to remember the good times that you had with them and not just the way in which they died. Holding onto good memories is a positive coping mechanism and allows us to honour them without guilt.

The survivors need attention
When someone takes their life, it affects everyone within their community. Friends, family, colleagues, and more have to sort through their feelings to understand their own emotions regarding it. Survivors Day reminds them they are not alone; we take the time to stop and focus on the resources that can help them get through.

It connects us
Sometimes it’s hard to see beyond our own pain and it gives us feelings of isolation and sadness. There’s still a high amount of social stigma associated with suicide and it can feel like you can’t reach out. On this day, we’re reminded that it is a global issue and that none of us are alone. It’s an opportunity to share feelings and draw strength from other survivors of suicide loss.


What kinds of emotions am I likely to feel in the days and weeks after a suicide loss?
Everyone experiences a suicide loss in their own way, so there is no list of emotions that will exactly fit your experience. However, many people who have lived through the suicide of a loved one experience some combination of the following feelings and grief responses:

  • Shock
  • Denial and disbelief
  • Grief
  • Rejection and abandonment
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Blame and self-recrimination
  • Confusion
  • Relief
  • Betrayal
  • Shame and embarrassment
  • Isolation
  • Depression and sadness
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Yearning for the person

What do I tell people about what happened?
You may be hesitant to share with others that your loved one took their own life. While we cannot determine what is right for you, please note that in the long run, most survivors are glad that they decided to be honest about the facts of the death. One of the most important reasons to be honest about the way your loved one died is that it will give your friends and family the opportunity to support you in an appropriate way.

What do I tell my children?
If you are the parent or guardian of minor children, it is up to you to determine whether to tell your children the truth about what happened. Please do bear in mind that people talk, and while you may not (yet) wish to share the nature of your loved one’s death with your children, it’s very possible that they will overhear adults discussing or speculating about the nature of the death.

When explaining the suicide to a child or adolescent, provide truthful information, encourage questions, and offer loving reassurance. Reassure children that they are not responsible, and that nothing they said or did caused anyone else to take their life. Be prepared to talk about the suicide multiple times during the first days and weeks, and later throughout the child’s life.

Talking to others about what happened
You may be hesitant to share with others that your loved one took their own life. While we cannot determine what is right for you, in the long run most survivors are glad that they decided to be honest about the facts of the death.

Taking care of yourself
It is imperative that you take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. No matter how you deal with your grief, you should not have to cope with your loss alone; be open to letting people help you live through this experience.

What can I expect if I witnessed the suicide or if I found the body?
If you witnessed the suicide of your loved one or found the body, you are likely to experience trauma symptoms in addition to grief over the loss of your loved one. Images of your loved one at the time of death may be burned into your memory, making it difficult to concentrate on other things. You may experience anxiety and confusion as well as physical symptoms such as chest pain, stomach or digestive problems, breathing problems, or difficulty sleeping. It is also important to know that, even when you have not been an eyewitness to the death, you may develop trauma symptoms.

These emotional and physical reactions are normal responses to trauma and, even though it may not feel like it now, they will likely diminish in the weeks and months to come. If they do not, it is best to seek the help of a mental health professional who has experience working with people who have had traumatic experiences or losses.

If you need support or someone to speak to, either if you are having suicidal thoughts, if you are concerned for someone else or if you are dealing with the loss of someone close, please click here for a list of support lines where you will always find someone to talk to.

Here are some links to further information: