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Youth Suicide Prevention Hub

Suicide is the leading cause of death for people under 35 years old in the UK

The number of suicides in people aged 15-19 in England is at its highest in 30 years

Every year, around 200 UK schoolchildren die by suicide

Over 68% of young LGBTQ people have had suicidal thoughts

What can we do to help prevent youth suicide?

We have a range of courses available that help professionals and the public support young people at risk:

Suicide Prevention in Schools

This course empowers school staff to understand, identify and support young people at risk and provide effective interventions and ongoing support for young people who are struggling to cope. The course can be adapted for different school ages and staff, such as teachers or counsellors.

Full course: one day

Find out more

 

Real Talk – Children under 16/Youth over 16

Developing the skills and confidence to talk about suicide with young people openly and comfortably, using safe, respectful language.

Intro: 1.5 hours
Full course: half day

Find out more

 

Mental Health First Aid – Youth

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a training course which teaches people how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue.

Intro: half day
Full course: two days

Find out more

 

Caring Connections – Social Workers

Delivering trauma-informed suicide prevention for children and young people.

Full course: one day

Find out more

 

Understanding Self-Harm – Youth

A course for professionals looking at the factors, considerations, and interventions when working with people who engage in self-harm.

Full course: half day

Find out more

 

We offer bespoke training tailored to your industry or service.
If you work with young people in any capacity and are interested in how you can help support your staff and prevent youth suicides, please get in touch here.

 

We know that men aged over 45 are an at-risk community and that suicide is also rising in women of all ages. This page focuses on youth resources and statistics, but our information and resources are for everyone, no matter their age.

The links below will take you to guidance that can be applied to everyone, including yourself.

Suicide Prevention Hub  Understanding suicide  Ask now, save lives

 

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please visit the Find Help Now resource.

We have a range of courses available that help professionals and the public support young people at risk:

Suicide Prevention in Schools

This course empowers school staff to understand, identify and support young people at risk and provide effective interventions and ongoing support for young people who are struggling to cope. The course can be adapted for different school ages and staff, such as teachers or counsellors.

Full course: one day

Find out more

 

Real Talk – Children under 16/Youth over 16

Developing the skills and confidence to talk about suicide with young people openly and comfortably, using safe, respectful language.

Intro: 1.5 hours
Full course: half day

Find out more

 

Mental Health First Aid – Youth

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is a training course which teaches people how to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue.

Intro: half day
Full course: two days

Find out more

 

Caring Connections – Social Workers

Delivering trauma-informed suicide prevention for children and young people.

Full course: one day

Find out more

 

Understanding Self-Harm – Youth

A course for professionals looking at the factors, considerations, and interventions when working with people who engage in self-harm.

Full course: half day

Find out more

 

We offer bespoke training tailored to your industry or service.
If you work with young people in any capacity and are interested in how you can help support your staff and prevent youth suicides, please get in touch here.

 

We know that men aged over 45 are an at-risk community and that suicide is also rising in women of all ages. This page focuses on youth resources and statistics, but our information and resources are for everyone, no matter their age. The links below will take you to guidance that can be applied to everyone, including yourself.

Suicide Prevention Hub
 
Understanding suicide

Ask now, save lives

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please visit the Find Help Now resource.

Below are various helplines and contacts for young people.

Please share them with young people who may need them, or keep a note for the future. 

Samaritans

  • listening service
  • call 116 123
  • jo@samaritans.co.uk
  • 24/7

Shout

  • text service
  • text “Shout” to 85258
  • 24/7

Childline

  • for under 19s
  • call 0800 1111
  • online 1:1 chat
  • childline.org.uk
  • 24/7

Papyrus

  • for under 35s
  • call 0800 068 41 41
  • text 07860 039967
  • pat@papyrus-uk.org
  • 24/7

Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline

  • LGBTQ+ Support
  • call 0800 0119 100
  • 10am – 10pm
  • every day

The Mix

  • for under 25s
  • call 0808 808 4994
  • 4pm to 11pm
  • Mon-Fri

Voices of Hope

Welcome to our podcast! 

At Grassroots Suicide Prevention, we start conversations. We’ll be talking to mental health professionals, people with lived experience, local government, researchers, educators and more about how their work connects to suicide and what we can do as a community to prevent suicide.

Listen to our teaser trailer and episodes below. Available wherever you get your podcasts.. 

Latest episode! ↓

Youth risk factors

Many of us – one in five – suffer from suicidal thoughts. Research shows that these thoughts can be interrupted and suicide can be prevented.

Some young people experience interrelated risk factors in their homes, families, schools and communities. Coupled with difficult experiences, feelings and situations, it can seem to them that death is preferable to the pain and difficulty of continuing to live. Behind every death lies a tragic and unique story of insurmountable pain.

It is important to not over-simplify what could have driven someone to take their life. We should not speculate about their emotional state and we should not try to look for what went wrong or who is to blame.

Young people in stable homes with good educational records and plenty of friends are still not immune from thoughts of suicide. It does not only impact young people with mental health issues. Many deaths occur among young people who are free from anxiety or depression. 

It is most likely a combination of individual, relationship, community and societal risk factors that can increase the possibility that a young person will attempt suicide. You can find some examples below. 

  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Signs of depression and other mental illnesses
  • Serious illness such as chronic pain
  • Juvenile criminal/legal problems
  • Mood disorders
  • Illegal/reckless/underage substance use
  • Adverse school or home experiences
  • Stigma associated with help-seeking and mental illness, especially among peers when young
  • Access to means of suicide in the home or at school
  • Unsafe media reporting of suicide
  • Ease of finding young online communities who glorify suicidal ideation
  • Bullying
  • Family/loved one’s history of suicide
  • Bereavement
  • Loss of relationships e.g. parental divorce, moving schools
  • High conflict or violent relationships
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of access to healthcare
  • Suicide cluster in the school or wider community
  • Stress of acculturation
  • Community violence
  • Historical trauma
  • Discrimination

Warning signs in young people

Most young people who are thinking about suicide will show one or more warning signs, through what they say or what they do.

You may see a change in behaviour or the presence of entirely new behaviours. This is of particular concern if the new or changed behaviour is related to a painful event, loss, or change. 

Remember that young people are also going through changes like puberty, emotional development and much more. Some of the signs below could also just be part of being a young person, but it is always better to check in than not. 

Here are some potential warning signs that a young person may be considering suicide:

  • Depression 
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of interest in things
  • Frequent irritability
  • Feelings of humiliation and/or shame
  • Outbursts of agitation and/or anger
  • Unexplained crying
  • Self-loathing or self-hatred
  • Relief or sudden elation, extreme happiness
  • Killing themselves
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Being a ‘bad child’ or not the ‘favourite’ 
  • No one cares
  • Having nobody or nothing to love
  • Having no reason to live
  • Being a burden or bothering others
  • Feeling trapped
  • Hating their life
  • Feeling a failure
  • Unbearable pain
  • Wanting the pain or exhaustion to end
  • Things would be better when they are gone/dead
  • Problems will be over soon
  • Lack of interest in the future
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Inability or reluctance to do usual activities like schoolwork, sports or extracurriculars
  • Preoccupation with death in art, poetry, social media, TV, etc.
  • Self-destructive behaviour
  • Concern from teachers about themes or storylines in homework (e.g. dark or depressing story writing)
  • Impulsive, reckless behaviour
  • Apathy about appearance or health
  • Increased or intense use of alcohol or drugs, or starting to use them recklessly and/or underage
  • Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
  • Dwindling performance at school
  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Isolating from family and friends, or engaging with different friendship groups who encourage and partake in reckless, illegal or dangerous behaviour
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Making a will or final arrangements
  • Saying good-bye to family and friends
  • Writing letters and asking them not to be opened
  • Aggression and/or rage
  • Extreme fatigue

Youth suicide myths

There are some phrases and assumptions around suicide add to the weight of social stigma and shame that it carries. This stigma can be even more damaging to young people who may be going through difficult times with personal, emotional and social development. 

When a young person at risk hears stereotypes, they can see it as confirmation that they are misunderstood, inadequate, alone or worthless. This makes them more likely to struggle in silence and can increase the chance that they will act on their suicidal thoughts. 

Here are some of the most harmful suicide myths debunked. Click each myth to see the real facts and explanations.

How to talk to a young person about suicide

Timing

Timing is key. This is an important conversation and needs to be treated with respect. 

You might want to start the conversation when they are down or upset, but this may be the time when young people are most likely to close down. Instead, ask when they’re having a good day and probably feeling more talkative.

Do remember that the young person’s internal monologue might be telling them that they’re not good enough, don’t deserve help, or are a failure. Allow them to direct the conversation – don’t ambush them or make them feel targeted.

Location

Talking in a place where someone feels rushed may be uncomfortable and affect what they say. 

At home or in a quiet and private place 

It’s easier to talk to a young person when they are comfortable and not worried about showing emotions. 

Take your time. Avoid trying to talk during a family mealtime, or late in the day when they are tired. Instead find a time when it’s just the two of you and you can talk as long as you need without having to rush off.

While doing something you enjoy together

Many children and young people find it easier to talk while doing an activity.

Young people may feel less under pressure if they don’t have to maintain eye contact. It can also be helpful to focus on an activity as this gives you both space to pause, reflect and gather thoughts without awkward silences.

On a walk 

You could suggest going for a walk in a quiet or familiar place.

Some young people might not feel safe at home, but they may also feel anxiety in more public spaces. Nature can often help people to feel more relaxed, but it is important to check first.

Start the conversation

It's important to show that you are genuinely concerned about a young person's experience. 

Remember the four C’s and appear calm, confident, consistent and compassionate however you feel inside.



Talking to a young person about how they are can be worrying, especially if you’re concerned that they’re having a hard time. You might not know what to say, or feel worried about how your child will react.


Here are some suggestions on how to start the conversation:

  • How are you feeling?



  • What was the best and worst part of your day?

  • It seems like you’ve been struggling lately. Are you comfortable talking with me about what’s going on?

  • I’ve noticed you’ve had a couple of down days lately, can you let me know how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking about?

  • If you are having feelings that are hard deal to with or scared of, you can always talk to me, it would not upset me. I just want to listen.

Ask about suicide

It is important to be direct, clear and avoid euphemism. This might be difficult, so remember that it is important to know the answer. 

  1. Have you been thinking about suicide?
  2. Do you feel like you don’t want to be in this world anymore?
  3. Do you want to close your eyes and never wake up?
  4. Do you have any plans on hurting or killing yourself?

When they answer, listen with empathy and without judgement. Be careful not to look shocked or upset as they may then be less open in what they say. Be prepared to listen, even if it’s hard to hear, and try to stay calm.

What to say next

Below are some different types of questions that might help to guide the rest of your conversation. 

“Just take your time, there’s no rush.”
“I know talking about this can be difficult.  I’m here to listen.”
“You can tell me anything.”
“I want to listen and understand.”

Reassure them that they matter to you and that you’re here to listen and support them and that you don’t need to rush off. 

Many people who feel suicidal will feel worthless and you patiently prioritising the conversation will mean a lot.

“How long have you been feeling this way? ” 
“Have you felt this way before?

If so, ask how their feelings changed last time. Reassure them that they won’t feel this way forever, and that intensity of feelings can reduce in time.

Encourage them to focus on getting through the present rather than focussing on the future.

“Have you got a plan? What is it?”
“Have you thought about how you would kill yourself?”
“Have you thought about when you would kill yourself?”
“Have you taken any steps to get the things you would need to carry out your plan?”
“Have you thought about how you might do this?”

This is important.

People who have made a plan are at more risk.  Let them know that you care about them and that they aren’t alone.

“I can’t imagine how painful this is for you, but I would like to try to understand.”
“I’m here, we can find a way to get through this.”
Empathise with them. Be aware you don’t know exactly how they feel and that you have the time to listen.
“You’re not alone, lots of people feel like this.”
“I’m glad you’re telling me how you feel.”
“One in five people have thoughts like yours and recover from them, it is okay to feel like this.”

Try to offer hope and suggest that people can find ways to get through tough times and that you will help them. 

“What reasons do you have for staying alive?”

Ask about their reasons for living and dying and listen to their answers. Focus on people they care about, and who care about them.

Keep asking open-ended questions – this means there isn’t a yes or no answer, but an opportunity for them to speak more, encouraging the conversation.

“Thank you for telling me.”

Encourage them to seek help that they are comfortable with. This could be a doctor, therapist, counsellor or one of the many resources listed for young people here.

What not to say


Click each phrase for more information, ideas and clarifications.
Their feelings won’t go away because you want them to, they will suffer in silence.
This could make someone feel more isolated and ashamed of their feelings.
Just listen with empathy and without judgement.
Their distress and pain is real and may be a cause of a combination of things, including mental health issues. Dismissing them might make them feel they won’t be understood.
Many people who feel suicidal may feel they are failing; this could increase their feelings of inadequacy.
What is distressing may be a combination of many complex reasons, including mental health issues that have been building over time.
Suicidal ideation is painful, complex and unique to the individual.
Dismissing and belittling their feelings could make them feel more worthless and unimportant.

Did you know 1 in 5 people will have suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives?

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