If you have seriously harmed yourself and your life is in danger, or you are worried about someone else’s life, get help as a matter of urgency – call 999 or go to A&E.
If you’re experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which could lead to suicide, Samaritans provides confidential, non-judgemental emotional support, 24 hours a day. You can call them on 116 123 or email them at email@example.com. It is best to call them when you are able to have a conversation and have not been drinking.
You can also contact your GP and ask for an emergency appointment or call 111 for help finding local support.
What causes suicidal feelings and thoughts?
According to the Samaritans, there is no simple explanation for why someone might feel suicidal and it is rarely due to one particular factor.
Mental health problems are important influences, as well as alcohol and substance misuse, feeling desperate, helpless or without hope.
What’s the link between alcohol and suicidal thoughts?
There is a strong association between alcohol misuse (either chronic or acute) and suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, and death from suicide.1
The risk of suicide is as much as eight times greater when someone is abusing alcohol.2
Alcohol can lower a person’s inhibitions enough for them to act on suicidal thoughts. It suppresses activity in parts of the brain associated with inhibition.3 Any warning signals that may have kicked in if a person was sober are unlikely to work, which can lead to actions they might not otherwise have taken – including self-harm and suicide.4
Men are at higher risk of suicide (accounting for three-quarters of all deaths by suicide in the UK in 2018)5and are more likely than women to turn to alcohol when they’re in distress.6 In addition, people living in the poorest communities are often the most affected—with higher rates of suicide.7
Alcohol and depression
Drinking alcohol can lead to a person experiencing negative emotions such as depression, anxiety or anger – even if they were in a good mood when they started drinking. This is because alcohol is a depressant. It slows down the brain and processes in the central nervous system and can interfere with what our brains need to do to keep good mental health. In the long-term, drinking alcohol can contribute to negative feelings and make anxiety harder to deal with.
Drinking heavily and regularly is associated with symptoms of depression, although it can be difficult to disentangle cause and effect when the two go together. Alcohol is known to affect several nerve-chemical systems which are important in regulating mood.8 When the sequence is studied, it is clear that people can experience feeling depressed after drinking.9 It has also often been shown that reducing or stopping drinking can improve mood.10,11,12,13,14
Medications prescribed for depression should not be mixed with alcohol.15 Some of the commonly prescribed anti-depressants tend to increase the risk of relapse to heavy drinking in people who are trying to cut down or abstain, so antidepressants should only be taken with great caution.16,17,18
How drinking less can help
Alcohol use can be a trigger to suicidal feelings and thoughts. Drinking less or stopping drinking could help prevent from having suicidal feelings and thoughts.
Because alcohol can lower a person’s inhibitions, drinking less or avoiding alcohol could prevent them from carrying out actions they wouldn’t consider doing while sober.
Alcohol can make stress harder to deal with and can worsen feelings of anxiety and depression. Reducing or stopping drinking can help keep you in good mental health.
Take our alcohol self-assessment
If you’re worried about your drinking - or someone else’s - and want to talk with someone confidentially, we can help. Drinkchat is a confidential online web chat service, available weekdays 9am to 2pm. Alternatively, you can call Drinkline confidentially on 0300 123 1100 weekdays 9am to 8pm and weekends 11am to 4pm.