Suicide and young people

Reaching out to a young person who feels suicidal

Every year about 1600 people under the age of 35 die because of suicide. Many more think about it, and thousands go to hospital after harming themselves.

How did reading that make you feel? Anxious, uncomfortable, afraid? Talking about suicide is a taboo in our society and that makes it all the harder for people who are thinking about suicide to ask for help.

Thursday 10 September 2015 is World Suicide Prevention Day, and this year’s theme (sadly it is an annual event) is ‘Reach out and save lives’.

When a young person feels suicidal, we encourage them to talk to someone – a friend, a member of their family, a professional. We ask them to seek help, and that’s right because we really can help young people to deal with these frightening and overwhelming thoughts.

But that’s a big ask. When a young person is feeling suicidal, they may be too afraid to ask for help. They tell us that they fear how people will react, that they will be angry, or dismissive, take over, or just not know what to do.

So on this day, we’re asking everyone to take time to find out a little bit about suicide in young people, and how you can help.

 View our infographic for some interesting facts on Suicide and Young People.suicide in young people infographic tn

Why do young people feel suicidal?

There are many reasons why a young person may have thoughts of suicide. Often several things happen together. The most common are:

  • Depression
  • Being extremely upset about something such as being bullied or family problems
  • Using drugs or drinking heavily
  • Someone close to them has attempted suicide or taken their own life

What are the signs that a young person is feeling suicidal?

Here’s the rub. A young person may seem low, unhappy, and miserable about the future. Or they may seem angry. Or quiet and withdrawn. Or full of energy and enthusiasm. Or just like usual. But this is just what they are showing on the outside. There is often no way of telling how they feel on the inside, unless they tell you.

What should I do if I’m worried about a young person?

Don’t ignore your fears.

Talking to a young person about suicide makes it easier for them to talk to you – it doesn’t make it more likely to happen. They will probably be relieved that they don’t have to keep their thoughts to themselves any more.

Stay as calm as you can, and try to have your conversation in a quiet place. Speak directly – ask if they have been thinking about suicide, or taking their own life, or killing themselves. Give them time to answer.

If they say yes, listen to what they say. Reassure them they were right to tell you. You don’t need to have answers – listening is the most important thing you can do. Keep listening– however painful, don’t change the subject. If the young person isn’t sure about getting help, you can offer to look for it together.

If they say no, you have let them know that you are a safe person to talk to if they do think of suicide.

If the young person is in immediate danger, seek emergency help by ringing 999 or taking them to Accident and Emergency.

More help

We’re pleased to announce that Private Psychiatry now offers consultations to 16 & 17 year olds who may be feeling suicidal.

Papyrus is a UK charity working to prevent young suicide

Confidential helpline: HOPELineUK 0800 068 41 41; email ; text 07786 209 697

ChildLine 0800 1111; online support and chat

Samaritans 08457 90 90 90

Young Minds

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