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Free online course created to help better understand and prevent suicide

A new, free online course has been developed to allow healthcare professionals, and those working with at-risk or vulnerable individuals, to gain a better understanding of suicide and ways to prevent it.

It is estimated that approximately every 40 seconds a person dies by suicide somewhere in the world, which equates to over 800,000 people dying by suicide every year. Yet suicides are preventable, and this course focuses on how to support individuals to minimise their risk of suicide attempt.

The University of Glasgow-developed course, delivered on FutureLearn – called ‘Understanding Suicide and Suicide Prevention Strategies in a Global Context’ – allows users to learn about the complex set of factors linked to suicide and explores suicide prevention strategies.

The educational tool has been endorsed by NHS Breathing Space, Samaritans, the British Psychological Society, and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Glasgow.  To develop this resource we worked with experts in the field and people with lived experience.

The course tackles some of the myths that exist around the topic of suicide and offers students an opportunity to explore data and trends in their own community. The scale of suicide and self-harm are outlined and consideration given to how stigma influences risk.  The impact of suicide at a personal and societal level are considered, with a particular focus on legislation and media coverage.

To offer a deeper insight, a number of contributors share their personal experiences. One describes his own suicide attempt, and another outlines the impact that losing a friend from suicide had on her.

The course has been developed to be a useful and interesting resource, which ultimately aims to give those who engage the confidence to open conversations about this important topic.

Dr Laura Sharp, Co-Course Developer, from the University of Glasgow, said: “We’ve put together this course to empower those who engage in the course to have open conversations about suicide risk and prevention, with the hope that together we can reduce suicide rates.”

‘Understanding Suicide and Suicide Prevention Strategies in a Global Context’ launches for enrolments on the 7th February to coincide with Time to Talk day 2018 — a day dedicated to having a national conversation about mental health in the UK. The course will commence 4th March 2019.

From enrolment visit:

The WHO Guide to Preventing Suicide: A Resource for Media Professionals can be found here:

Supporting Quotes

Professor Rory O’Connor, Chair in Health Psychology at the University of Glasgow, said: “I am delighted to be involved in and endorse Glasgow University’s new Suicide Prevention MOOC. It provides an excellent overview of key issues involved in suicide prevention from a global context and it should be of interest to anyone keen to learn more about the scale of suicide, the importance of addressing stigma and international efforts to tackle suicide.”

Helen Fuller, Global Healthcare Lead at FutureLearn, said: “mental health is a priority area for FutureLearn and few subjects can be more important than suicide prevention, which is so devastating to so many people.  This sort of course, which looks to engage learners in both the UK and internationally, epitomises FutureLearn’s company mission to transform access to education on a global scale. We are sure our learners will find this important course highly informative.”

Professor Jackie Taylor, President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, said: “The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow is delighted to be able to support this important work. It’s vital that we provide all the support we can to those in need, and this innovative approach will add to the resources available in this vital area.”

Ruth Sutherland, Samaritans CEO, said: “Understanding suicide and suicidal behaviour is a key part of suicide prevention. Finding effective ways to support individuals and sharing best practice will help those working in the field to save lives.”


For more information contact Elizabeth McMeekin or Ali Howard in the University of Glasgow Communications and Public Affairs Office on 0141 330 4831 or 0141 330 6557; or email or

Follow us on Twitter @UofGMVLS and @UofGNews


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