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Integrated treatment services could prevent many alcohol-related suicides , suggests a new survey of people with lived experience . DDN reports
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The relationship between alcohol and suicide is complex . But research collated for a new report by the Suicide Prevention Consortium shows that people who are dependent on alcohol are approximately 2.5 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population . Nearly half of patients under the care of mental health services who die by suicide in England have a history of alcohol misuse . The pandemic brought an additional wave of higher risk drinking with its detrimental effects on mental health .

‘ I knew I had to address alcohol to start getting better . I just wished that they had noticed sooner that I had other deeper problems .’
With the statistics highlighted in their report , Insights from experience : alcohol and suicide , the consortium wanted to find out more about the relationship between alcohol and suicide by talking to those with personal experience – from suicide attempts while intoxicated , through to longterm alcohol use and dependency . What needed to change to make sure people were better supported by healthcare services ? A clear finding that emerged was that the relationship between alcohol and suicide was different for everyone , with no ‘ one-size-fits-all ’ treatment . People often felt unable to get past eligibility criteria and found themselves excluded from the support they needed from overstretched healthcare services . They responded to staff who genuinely listened to and trusted them , and the consortium identified the need for investment in alcohol and mental health services to give them the capacity to respond to people ’ s individual needs .
‘ Alcohol used to take all of the bad feelings away for the moment but always left [ me ] sad after . Depression hits the day after I drink .’
It became clear that for many people , alcohol use was not an isolated issue but part of a wider picture of trying to cope with their feelings around mental health , trauma and suicidal thoughts . Isolating alcohol use from these other issues was a barrier to treatment : ‘ Lots of the people who responded to our survey told us they want services to treat them as a whole person , rather than isolating different issues they were experiencing from one another ,’ said the consortium .
While some people were treated with empathy and respect by healthcare services following a suicide attempt , others felt dismissed and judged by staff because of their alcohol use . There was a clear training need for staff in all healthcare settings – based on evidence from people with lived experience – so that they fully understood the complex role alcohol could play in suicide attempts .
‘ They [ A & E staff ] just said I would feel better once I sobered up .’
Various issues emerged through the survey – the impact of the pandemic , life experiences , past trauma – but there was not enough evidence in these responses to draw conclusions about the impact they had on people ’ s relationship with alcohol .
An important next stage was to carry our further work with people with lived experience to develop a better understanding of the relationship between alcohol and suicide and look at risk , protective factors , and effective interventions . ‘ An understanding of the factors that might put people at greater risk of harm is crucial so that help can come earlier , long before people reach a crisis point ,’ said the consortium . https :// www . samaritans . org / about-samaritans / research-policy / alcohol-suicide /
‘ I once attempted suicide whilst drunk , was taken to A & E and treated with disdain by the nurses because they just saw a drunk young girl … What they didn ’ t ask / know was that I ’ d been planning to die for months .’
THE SUICIDE PREVENTION CONSORTIUM is made up of four organisations – Samaritans ( lead ), National Suicide Prevention Alliance , Support After Suicide Partnership and With You . As part of the VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance , it aims to bring the expertise of its member organisations and the voice of those with lived experience to policymakers , to improve suicide prevention in England .