If you are reading this because you or a young person you know is having suicidal thoughts try to ask someone for help. It may be difficult at this time, but it’s important to know that you are not beyond help and you’re not alone.

Whatever you’re going through, call the Samaritans free anytime, from any phone on 116 123. They are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

If you need medical support and feel it can’t wait until your GP surgery re-opens you can call 111 – the NHS non-emergency number. They have specialist mental health nurses who can support you. These nurses can support both adults and young people. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is free from any phone.

If it’s an emergency, call an ambulance using 999.

Thoughts of suicide can affect anyone at any time. Often, people thinking about suicide will have experienced a stressful event associated with a feeling of loss. Events and experiences have different meanings and a different significance to each person – some people may feel able to cope whilst others may feel suicidal.

There are young people who may be more vulnerable to experiencing thoughts of suicide including those who have been bereaved, young people with mental health problems, people who have experienced or are experiencing abuse, young people in the care system and those from the LGBTQ+ communities. Suicide may become an option for a young person to regain some control in their life, or as a way to escape a painful situation or experience.

It can be distressing to learn that a loved one, family member or friend is feeling suicidal. Remember those thoughts of suicide are common, with 1 in 4 young people experiencing thoughts of suicide at some point. It’s really brave for someone to open up and talk about feeling suicidal.

There is help available and knowing that someone is struggling gives you the opportunity to support them. It is important to listen to the person and understand the reasons they are feeling suicidal in order to support them to move forward.

Some signs include but are not limited to:

  • Withdrawing from friends, family, responsibilities, commitments and previously enjoyed activities.
  • Low mood and or irritability which is uncharacteristic.
  • Uncharacteristically reckless behaviour.
  • Disinterest in maintaining personal hygiene or appearance.
  • Poor diet changes, rapid weight changes.
  • Appearing distracted or agitated.
  • Poor sleep.
  • Alcohol or drug misuse.
  • Expressing or appearing hopeless; failing to see a future or appearing to give up or be disinterested in their hopes, dreams, goals or ambitions.
  • Believing they are a burden to others.
  • Saying they feel worthless or alone.
  • Talking about death or wanting to die

Below are some recommended steps to take if a young person is in crisis or makes a disclosure of self-harm or suicidal intent.

Top tips

  • Provide time and space to listen to them without interruption; think about the setting you are in.
  • Listen calmly, without judgement or rushing to solutions (unless it is an emergency and requires immediate intervention).
  • Validate the emotion, not necessarily the behaviour.
  • Provide information about where or how to access appropriate support.
  • Encourage young people to make safe, informed decisions.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep

Things that could help

Papyrus prevention of Young Suicide – Website and helpline offers confidential information to parents, carers and anyone who are worried that a young person who they think is contemplating suicide.

Staying Safe offers free resources for anyone distressed, thinking about suicide or worried about someone they care about. It provides Safety Plan guidance tools, with easy to print/online templates and guidance video tutorials designed to help people through the process of writing their own Safety Plan.

Children and young people with experience of suicide

A bereavement is a difficult and painful experience for any child or young person. When the bereavement occurs because of suicide, the emotions a child or young person experience may be very complex, with feelings of guilt, shame or blame as well as grief and loss.

These emotions may be very difficult to manage for a child or young person. A suicide of a loved one is a traumatic event, and trauma can change the way children and young people see their environment and the people in. It can affect children’s emotions, memory, behaviour and ability to learn.

Bereavement charity Winston’s Wish have lots of useful information on supporting children and young people who have experience of suicide:

Schools can also contact Winston’s Wish for help with supporting a student:

Listening Ear offer a specialist counselling service for children and young people bereaved by suicide. Any parent, guardian or professional can make a referral by visiting the Listening Ear website.