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PAPYRUS - prevention of young suicide
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Don't die of embarrassment

For a flyer about our video pack in pdf format click here.

For a leaflet on exam stress which can be photocopied click here.

Are you in tune?

Teachers come into contact with emotionally distressed young people on a daily basis and are often the first to pick up on the fact that the child or young person needs help.

Depression and other problems can manifest themselves from early childhood onwards. Acute mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder often begin during the later teenage years. Recent research indicates that increased drug use in young people is causing more and more episodes of mental illness than ever before.

Although thankfully suicide is a rare occurrence, episodes of self-harm and / or suicidal behaviour are not. Early intervention can prevent things from getting much worse later on.

Signs of emotional distress may include:

changes in usual behaviour
anger and / or hostility
being very quiet and withdrawn
disruptive behaviour
difficulty concentrating and / or completing schoolwork
being missing from the classroom

Children and young people can become upset for many reasons e.g.

breakup with boy or girlfriend
upsetting home circumstances
mental health problems
developing a mental illness
using drugs and / or alcohol
physical, sexual or emotional abuse
difficulties with sexuality
fear of underachievement

Things that seem insignificant or even trivial to adults can be of monumental importance to young people who may get them totally out of proportion.

How do you know if someone is thinking about suicide?

More often than not - you don't!
However these are pretty strong clues:
self inflicted injury
talking or writing about dying either openly or covertly
giving away possessions
feelings of hopelessness, boredom or self hatred

How you can help

Find out about the support network available in your school or college.

ask the young person what's wrong
listen to what they are saying, take it seriously
make it clear that you care about them
reassure them that things can and probably will get better
involve parents, carers or friends if you think it's appropriate
keep an open dialogue going
try to persuade them to share information with people who can help
give information about where they can get help

make light of it
criticise or be judgmental
pressurise them about their school work
make assumptions like self confident young people have high self esteem, or that intelligence and motivation go hand in hand!
break confidences unless absolutely necessary

If you think that the young person's safety is at risk, you will have to report it. Try to get their permission first.

If you think there may be a greater risk to the young person by disclosing sensitive information you need to record that and consult with the colleague responsible for child protection.

What if someone self harms or makes a suicide attempt?

Any act of self harm (however trivial it may appear to be) should be taken seriously since this is the way the young person is trying to communicate strong feelings of unhappiness, anger or despair.

What if a member of the school or college takes their own life?

This doesn't just apply to pupils or students - staff can be vulnerable too.

In these circumstances good practice includes:
a key person in the school co-ordinating the organisation's response
consultation with the LEA and specialist bereavement support organisations
the person's death to be openly talked about and formally acknowledged. He/she should not be judged on their action
copy cat suicides can and do happen therefore the death must not be 'glamorised' in any way
the 'disadvantages' of taking one's own life to be emphasised
details of how they died to be kept to a minimum
staff and pupils encouraged to talk through their feelings not just immediately after the person has died but in the ensuing weeks too

Suicide can have a profound impact on the wellbeing of those left behind.
Some people will remain troubled by it for a long time.

Useful Resources:

'Thinking of Ending It All?' published by PAPYRUS. A booklet for a young person who has contemplated suicide explaining why they may be feeling like this, what can be done and where to get help.

'Coping with Exams' - leaflet published by PAPYRUS

'Listen to Me' - a leaflet produced by the members of Young PAPYRUS to facilitate better communication between parents and their children.

'Promoting Children's Mental Health within Early Years and School settings'. DfEE Publications, PO Box 5050, Sherwood Park, Annesley. Nottingham. NG15 0DJ Tel: 0845 6022260 Quote ref: 0112/2001

A guide for teachers and others working in schools 'Mental Health in Your School' by YoungMinds. Published by Jessica Kingsley. ISBN 1-85302-407-4

'So Young, So Sad, So Listen' by Philip Graham and Carol Hughes. Royal College of Psychiatrists. ISBN 0-902241-80-X

Promoting emotional wellbeing in the classroom

'Don't Die of Embarrassment' produced by PAPYRUS - a teachers' resource pack for young people of 13+. Contains video / DVD, teacher's notes and lesson plans.

'Lifebytes' for Key Stage 3 -accessed through www.wiredforhealth.gov.uk

'Mind, Body and Soul' for Key Stage 4 - accessed through www.wiredforhealth.gov.uk

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