What is suicide and why does it happen?

Learn more about supporting yourself and others

Written by spunout


Feeling overwhelmed or want to talk to someone right now? Text SPUNOUT to 50808 to chat anonymously with a trained volunteer. Standard text rates may apply.

Suicide is a complex issue that many people find difficult to talk about. Some people worry that talking to someone who is thinking about taking their own life could make it worse, but it is always best to talk to someone if you’re worried about them.

Some people may never fully understand why someone would want to take their own life, but it’s important to be open to having a conversation about suicide in order to find ways to prevent it and offer support.

Articles on suicide:

Find a range of articles with more information on suicide and finding support below:

Information on suicide

If you are feeling suicidal:

Helping someone who is suicidal:

What is suicide?

Suicide is the act of intentionally ending your own life. Often, people who die by suicide suffer from mental health difficulties, but this is not always the case. 

When talking about suicide, it’s important to know the correct terms to use, as this is a sensitive topic that can cause pain for many people.

Dying by suicide

When a person takes their own life, it means they have died by suicide. 

Suicide attempt

A suicide attempt means a person tried to take their own life, but they did not die. 

Suicidal thoughts or feelings

Suicidal thoughts, sometimes known as “suicidal ideation” involves thinking of suicide and possibly making a plan as to how a person might take their own life.

Suicidal feelings can be frightening for the person experiencing them as well as their friends and family. Suicide is complex and sometimes there may seem to be no obvious reason as to why someone might feel suicidal. This can make it even more difficult to understand when someone takes their own life.

Why would someone take their own life?

There is no one reason why a person might want to die by suicide. Most often, a person who is feeling suicidal is also suffering from mental health difficulties, and they could also be dealing with other pressures or health problems in their life. Many people suffer in silence, and it is not always obvious when a person is struggling with their mental health. This means that it may never be clear to friends and family why a person died by suicide.

Below are some things that could increase the risk of a person wanting to die by suicide, but the risk factors are not limited to this list:

  • Suffering from mental health difficulties
  • Experiencing a loss, whether that’s a relationship, employment, or the death of a loved one
  • A history of suicide in friends or family
  • Alcohol or drug misuse
  • Feeling isolated and lonely
  • History of abuse
  • Experience of inequalities 

Learn more about some of the risk factors contributing to suicide here.

Finding help for yourself or a friend

No matter how low you are feeling, it is important to know that there is help out there. If you are concerned about a friend, the best way to find out how they are feeling is to ask them.

Find some advice for helping a friend who is suicidal here.

There are a number of organisations who can help:

spunout’s text message support service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We provide in-the-moment anonymous support and problem solving when you need it most. Text SPUNOUT to 50808 to chat anonymously with a trained volunteer. Standard text rates may apply.

Pieta House offer services for people who self-harm, suffer from suicidal ideation or have made suicide attempts, you can contact them 24/7 by texting ‘Help’ to 51444 to get started (standard text messaging rates apply) or by calling 1800 247 247.

Samaritans offers a 24 hour listening service over text message. Call 116 123 to talk to someone over the phone.

Childline text and instant messaging services are available from 10am – 4am every day to young people under 18, text ‘Talk’ to 50101 to talk to a trained counsellor by text message or call 1800 66 66 66.

Traveller Counselling Service

If you are a young Traveller and would like to speak to a counsellor who specifically works with the Travelling Community, the Traveller Counselling Service can support you. The service works from a culturally inclusive framework that respects Traveller culture, identity, values and norms. They provide Traveller culture centred counselling and psychotherapy. They are a Dublin based service but offer counselling both in-person and online.

Opening up to a friend or family member

It might be difficult to express how you’re feeling, but talking to a friend or family member you trust could help you to feel better. Even letting them know that you can’t fully explain your feelings but that you wanted someone to know is a good first step. Read more about opening up to a friend or family member.

If you don’t feel like you can talk to someone you know just yet, then consider talking to your GP about your mental health.

What to do in an emergency

If you are in an emergency situation where someone has attempted suicide, call 999 or 112, or get the person to A&E immediately.

Read about what happens when you attend A&E for self-harm or overdose here.

Our work is supported by