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Article: Why are people impacted by domestic abuse dying by suicide?

Article for NSPA Suicide Prevention Blog by Tim Woodhouse, Kent and Medway STP Suicide Prevention Programme Manager.

Please be aware that this article contains statistics, quotes and discussion related to domestic abuse and suicide. Please look after yourself and seek help here if you need support or call the Refuge national 24/7 freephone helpline 0808 2000 247 for support with domestic abuse. 

“I knew that he was going to kill me, so it wasn’t a matter of choosing to die, just who was going to do it.”

This is what one victim of domestic abuse told us in our recent research to try and understand more about the links between domestic abuse (DA) and suicide, after we became the first local area in the country to quantify the issue. 

Domestic Abuse and Suicide Stats Kent CC NSPA
Findings of Kent CC Study

The Kent and Medway Suicide Prevention Programme worked with Kent Police to highlight that 30% of all suspected suicides locally are individuals who have been impacted by domestic abuse (either as a victim or perpetrator).  

During the three years of 2019, 2020 and 2021 this equated to 114 deaths. If the 30% proportion is replicated nationally (and I don’t know why it wouldn’t be) then that would equate to over 1600 domestic abuse related suicides in the UK every year. 

But whilst it is useful to look at statistics, we must always remember that each number contained within this blog represents a human life lost and is a tragedy for the friends, family and community of the individual who died. 

Who was involved in the study? 

This research was conducted by Josephine Ramm and Perpetuity Research on our behalf.  All the participants were no longer in an abusive relationship, nor being stalked or abused by a former partner. They were being supported by local organisations and they were no longer feeling suicidal.   

They all took part because they wanted other people to hear about their experiences, so that they would feel less alone and know that recovery is possible.  

What does this tell us? 

It’s clear from our research, and from quotes like the one we opened this blog with, that for many domestic abuse victims, suicide seems like the only possible escape that they have from the terrifying abuse which they experience on a daily and often hourly basis. 

However, we have also found that for some victims, their feelings of suicidality can emerge many months or even years after the direct abuse has stopped.  

“{My attempt} was a year after. I was waiting for counselling and I’d been getting on with life, but I was so angry that he was still in control of my emotions even a year after {last} speaking to him.”

Our first presentation on this subject was called “We don’t know a lot, but we know enough to be seriously concerned.” And that’s still the case…. We are really only just starting to lift the lid on the links between domestic abuse and suicide and there are still many unanswered questions, not least “what can we do to reduce the risk of suicide amongst people impacted by domestic abuse?”  

But we do know that this is a life and death issue for many people, so we can’t wait until we know absolutely everything before we try and intervene. And it’s in that spirit which we have produced our briefing paper for front line practitioners which is our attempt to equip them with knowledge, confidence and tools to reduce the risk of suicide amongst people they work with. 

You can download this resource here. 

We know it’s not perfect and we would love to hear your views on how we can improve it, but at least it’s a start, and a way to raise awareness and start the conversation. 

Myself and Jo Ramm led a workshop about this research at the NSPA Annual Conference on 24th January 2023 in London.
To view the slides click here.

About The Author

Tim Woodhouse

Tim Woodhouse is the Kent and Medway STP Suicide Prevention Programme Manager (based in Kent County Council’s Public Health team).  He also sits on the NSPA Steering Group.  

For the last five years Tim has coordinated the Kent and Medway Suicide Prevention Multi-Agency Steering Group which includes a variety of agencies, charities and individuals affected by suicide.With his team, Tim designed and implemented the innovative Release the Pressure campaign, which aims to reduce the number of suicides in Kent by encouraging anyone who is feeling under pressure to phone a free-phone helpline.  

You can get in touch with Tim by email at or on twitter.