Suicide is the act of intentionally and purposefully ending one’s life.
It is not uncommon for people of all ages to experience thoughts about wanting to harm themselves or end their life, particularly when in crisis or experiencing a distressing life event.

It can be difficult to notice if a young person is experiencing thoughts and urges or even making plans to end their life, particularly as suicidal thoughts and urges can occur unexpectedly especially among adolescents.

It may help your young person to know that when we are in pain, our clever, problem solving mind tries to solve the problem of feelings. The mind comes up with all sorts of solutions that are most often about trying to avoid the pain, such as numbing with alcohol, or sleeping excessively. When the pain feels like it is never going away, the mind comes up with the idea of suicide as a solution to the problem of feeling pain. If we engage with thoughts of suicide, we start to think it could be a reality and we feel 'suicidal' or have 'suicidal thoughts'. Sometimes, people will act on these thoughts in an effort to stop their pain.

Some signs your child may be struggling with suicidal thoughts 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, hopeless or alone.
  • Talking about death or wanting to die

Steps to take if a young person makes a disclosure of suicidal thoughts or you think they might be feeling suicidal:

  • Protect 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, acknowledge how they feel and how they are trying to deal with their pain.
  • Provide information about where or how to access appropriate support.
  • Encourage young people to make safe, informed decisions.

Making a crisis and coping plan with a young person:

Every young person could benefit from having their own coping plan, whether they are known to experience episodes of crisis or not. A coping plan can be completed by anyone but should always be done with a young person.

A coping plan should consider the following;

  • What it looks like when the young person is well, coping and functioning at their usual level.
  • What early warning signs begin to show when a young person is struggling.
  • What signs indicate when a young person is in crisis.
  • What some of the triggers or contributing factors might be for a crisis.
  • An action plan of what to do when the early warning signs are showing.
  • An action plan of what to do when in crisis

Watch a video of someone completing this coping and crisis plan with a young person here:

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