Increase in suicide related calls at half of England's ambulance services over lockdown

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rachel Younger


It has been called a “second pandemic” with charities across the UK warning of a growing mental health crisis since the first Covid restrictions began.

But because it takes months for suicides to be formally recorded, there are, as yet, no official figures on suicides over the past year.  That means its too soon to know whether the virus has affected the number of people taking their own lives.

However, new figures from England’s ambulance services, shared with ITV News, suggest some areas have experienced a spike in calls related to suicide or suicide attempts. 

In the first six months after lockdown, from March to November 2020, London Ambulance Service recorded 15,541 calls relating to suicide or attempted suicide. That compares to 11,703 calls over the same period in 2019. 

15,541

Calls to London Ambulance Service relating to suicide/attempted suicide in Mar-Nov 2020

11,703

Calls to London Ambulance Service relating to suicide/attempted suicide in Mar-Nov 2019

In the first week alone of the second national lockdown in England (from November 5 to November 12) there were 644 calls, compared to 394 in the same week in 2019.

The picture in the West Midlands was similar with 4,806 calls from March to November 2020, compared to 2,955 in 2019. While the first week of the second lockdown saw 169 related calls, compared to 101 the year before. 

There were also increases in calls in the East of England, the South East and Yorkshire. The North West and South Central saw very little change, while 999 calls related to suicide appear to have decreased in the East Midlands and the North East. 



Jamie Mathias died after taking his own life in early December. His family watched helplessly as the restrictions gradually impacted on his mental health. 

Jamie’s sister Danielle Mathias was also his best friend.

She said: “Jamie went from working and being around his friends, being out for dinner literally three times a week to being furloughed and sitting alone in his bedroom pretty much 24/7.

"It got to a point where he couldn’t take his own thoughts any more.”


  • Jamie's sister and cousin say he kept his pain in for 'so long'


The 28-year-old had reached out for for help and had the unstinting support of his family. Despite this, a two week wait for a counsellor proved too long; his suicide coming with no warning that things had got so bad. 

“We want to show Jamie's photo, that people with pearly white teeth and the hair and the tan and the fashionable clothes, they do get depressed," his cousin, Sam Nelson, said.

Jamie Mathias

"Unfortunately, its happening to the best of people and that’s what we want people to know, it can happen to anybody.”

For paramedics, already stretched to their limits, dealing with calls related to suicide can prove particularly painful. 

Paramedic and GMB Branch Secretary Jason Dicker said: “Certainly we are attending more patients with mental health problems and suicide attempts.

"When we attend these types of incidents we don't know what we are attending and sadly we are attending incidents where people have successfully taken their own lives. For frontline staff, that is very stressful and difficult”.  


  • Paramedic Jason Dicker says calls relating to suicide have increased


In London, one of the most heartbreaking calls of all came from the family of a football mad 12-year-old.

Ethan Bourne had been struggling a little without the routine of school but seemed to be coping.

After spending an evening cooking with his mum earlier this month, he took his own life without warning. His family believe they’ll never know if the restrictions around Covid contributed to his death. 



His grandmother Samantha LeGonidec said: “Ethan had a name. He’s an individual. He’s ours. But what he died of has no face. Mental health doesn’t have a title."

"If you plug something in and it doesn’t work you know its broken.  If something stops working with a child you can’t see it, you don’t always know that something’s so wrong.” 


  • Ethan's grandmother says what he died of 'has no face'


There are no easy answers to the isolation and pressures of lockdown and neither family holds the restrictions to blame. They’ve chosen to share their stories because suicide was something they never believed would affect them or their loved ones.  

Now they just want make sure all of us keep asking the simple question: “Are you okay?”.

They believe this could remind others who are struggling that there is always help available, even in the pandemic. And to guard against a threat that can be as quick and invisible as any virus.


If you or someone you know if struggling with your mental health, you can get help here:

  • Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org

  • Rethink Mental Illness offer practical advice and information for anyone affected by mental health problems on a wide range of topics including treatment, support and care. Phone 0300 5000 927 (Mon-Fri 9.30am-4pm) or visit rethink.org