The National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Safety in Mental Health (2024)

Annual Report: UK patient and general population data, 2011-2021. 2024. University of Manchester. 

The findings in this report (36 pages) relate to people aged 10 and above who died by suicide between 2011 and 2021 across all of the UK.

In this year’s report the authors have also presented some data on specific topics reflecting current concerns in suicide prevention, one of which is patients aged 18 to 21 who were students.


There were 69,420 suicides in the general population in the UK between 2011 and 2021, an average of 6,311 deaths per year. The rate of suicide decreased by 4% in the UK in 2020 and 2021, the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to 2019. The decrease was particularly seen in men.


In 2011-2021, there were 869 deaths in England and Wales by those aged between 18-21 who were identified as students, an average of 79 suicides per year.

Of students who were patients under the care of mental health services (so the following percentages are based on smaller numbers) - 

  • 96 (11%) were mental health patients, a significantly lower proportion than other young people in the general population who died by suicide (25%).
  • The number increased between 2011 and 2020, which may reflect improved contact with health services, but fell in 2021.
  • These deaths were most common in October and April, which may reflect arrival and exam times, and were less common in August/September. 
  • 60% of students who died by suicide were men and 23% were from an ethnic minority group.
  • Over half (57%) lived at home with their parent(s) and 28% lived in shared accommodation.
  • Students more often had depressive illness (36%) compared to other patients who died by suicide aged 18-21 (20%), while alcohol (27%) and drug misuse (31%) were less common.
  • The majority (63, 72%) had a history of self-harm, and a third (27, 34%) had been seen at an emergency department for self-harm in the previous 3 months, similar to other patients (87, 29%).
  • Seventeen (24%) students had been subject to a routine or urgent referral by their GP in the preceding 3 months, similar to other young patients (52, 19%).
  • Short-term risk was viewed as low or not present in a similar proportion of students and non-students (70% and 76% respectively).

Their key clinical message in relation to students is that:

Promotion of a “whole university” approach to mental health is important to prevention, especially as high risk in students may be difficult to identify by conventional risk factors. Support should be enhanced at key times of risk, such as the start of the academic year and in the lead up to exams. There needs to be a clear pathway to NHS mental health services.

See pp. 30 and 31 for more detailed information on students aged 18-21. 

NCISH Annual Report 2024

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