Exploring experiences of accessing support for alcohol issues and suicidal ideation

With our partners in the Suicide Prevention Consortium*, we conducted a survey of people with lived experience of alcohol issues and suicidal thoughts/feelings/acts, and the barriers preventing more people from accessing the help they need. We interviewed five of them to find out more.

This 2024 Suicide Prevention Consortium report builds on the existing evidence base and identifies five key themes where improvement is needed: 

People’s support pathways vary greatly. The support system needs to be able to provide person-centred care and personalised support, meeting a diverse set of needs and personal circumstances. The support system must meet the needs of the individual, not the other way around.  

Stigma remains one of the most common barriers to accessing support. People are missing out on potentially life-changing support because of negative perceptions around suicidality, and alcohol issues. They report being made to feel like they should be able to help themself, or that they are not “unwell enough” to deserve support and compassion.  

Peer support networks and third sector services form a vital part of the support pathway. The impact of hearing from others with similar experiences

was extremely profound for many of our participants. We also heard many positive descriptions of third sector services, where people reported feeling empowered to make choices about their care.  

Crisis support is not consistently meeting the needs of this group. Healthcare professionals at A&E did not always understand the role of alcohol in suicidal thoughts/feelings/acts, and follow up care was described as inconsistent and lacking in genuine care, compassion and interest in a person’s needs 

The “no wrong door approach” is much needed. Too often, people are still turned away when healthcare professionals perceive them to be under the remit of another part of the system.  

* About the Suicide Prevention Consortium

The Suicide Prevention Consortium is led by Samaritans and also includes the National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA), Support After Suicide Partnership (SASP) 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 directly to policymakers, to improve suicide prevention in England.