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PAPYRUS - prevention of young suicide
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To download and print a pdf version of 'Not Just A Cry For Help', Click here.

Fersiwn Cymraeg yma.

If you are concerned about the mental well-being of a young person.

• Listen to what they say, don't be judgmental. Say that you love them and care about them, no matter what. Give them a hug! Raise their self-esteem.

• If they won't talk to you, maybe they would talk to a friend or sibling, or perhaps write down how they feel. Re-assure them that this happens to others.

• Encourage them to go to the GP or counselling service if there is one. Offer to go with them. Remind them that confidentiality is taken seriously.

• If they are living away encourage them to come home for a visit or go to see them yourself. This will then give you an opportunity to assess the situation.

Be clear there are always options:-
For example, if they are at University:
• Leave the course for good.
• Have a break from the course and defer a year.
• Change to a university nearer home.
• Leave higher education either for good or pick it up at a later point.

(These suggestions are based on the experience of PAPYRUS members, but you should always seek professional advice if you are concerned about your child.)

What if the young person is thinking of harming themselves?

Not Just A Cry For Help
Knowing that someone we care about is feeling suicidal can be emotionally and physically draining. It is important to look after your own health and to make time to get support and advice for yourself too.

You are not alone
Attempted suicide is far more common than most of us realise. In England and Wales, more than 140,000 people are admitted to accident and emergency departments each year because they have tried to kill themselves.

Although most people who attempt suicide survive, a few remain at high risk of taking their own life for quite some time afterwards. This means that any suicide attempt, however minor it seems to be, should be taken seriously.

Why did it happen?

Thinking about suicide
Suicidal thoughts can coincide with times of change - whether these changes are 'good' (like getting married or starting a new job), or 'bad' (such as someone dying or the end of a relationship). Quite often two or three different things will have happened, each of them causing considerable stress.

For some people there may be no apparent reason for these thoughts.

The circumstances leading up to a suicide attempt are different for everybody, and the reasons for it happening may never be fully explained or understood.

Often those who think about suicide are depressed. Usually very sensitive people, they may have been in despair, feeling hopeless about the future and unable to think straight. Everyday worries have become totally out of proportion, and black thoughts may have left no room for anyone or anything else.

Acting on the thought
Turning thoughts about suicide into action is sometimes done on impulse, perhaps following an event that is seen as 'the last straw'. This is especially true of young people.
Others, however, may have been making plans about suicide for some time.

Using alcohol and/or other drugs can make things worse. They take away the inhibitions which would otherwise stop someone from attempting to take their own life.

It's hard to talk…
about fears and feelings - even to those we know love and care about us. This can prevent other people from recognising the distress and being able to help in a crisis.

Words are often totally inadequate to convey the amount of pain a person may be suffering.

It is easy to understand that someone is hurting if they have been badly injured or are physically ill. Emotional pain cannot be seen, but it can be just as unbearable.

Sometimes attempting suicide may be the only way to show other people how bad things are.

'When your back is up against the wall, suicide can seem to be the only way out.'

What can be done to help ?

Do keep 'ALERT'…
Ask them how they were feeling before it happened and how they are feeling now. Talking about suicide does not make it more likely to happen. Try to be patient if they are angry or refuse to talk. It may be that writing things down is an easier way for them to communicate with you.

Listen -
this is the most important thing you can do. Treat them with respect, and try not to be judgmental or critical.

Empathise by showing that you really are trying to understand things from their point of view. Words don't always matter. The touch of a hand or a hug can go a long way to show that you care.

Reassure them that desperate feelings are very common and can be overcome. Things can and do change, help can be found and there is hope for the future. People do get better !

Try to give practical support, and help them to cope with any extra pressures. It may not be possible to deal with all the things that are troubling them, but between you agree on what you will do if a suicidal crisis happens again.

…and DON'T…
Put them down or do things that might make them feel worse. A suicide attempt suggests that self-esteem is already very low.

Abandon or reject them in any way. Your help, support and attention are vital if they are to begin to feel that life is worth living again. Don't relax your attentions just because they seem to be better. It doesn't mean that life is back to normal for them yet. They may be at risk for quite a while.

Nag - although it may be well meant. Nobody wants to be pestered all the time. Don't intrude - try to balance being watchful with a respect for privacy.

Ignore what has happened.

Criticise their actions - however you may be feeling about their suicide attempt, try to remember the pain and turmoil that they were, and may still be, going through. Don't take their behaviour personally - it was not necessarily directed at you.

Help from services
There are many ways in which health workers, social services staff and others can help someone who has attempted suicide. The staff in the hospital accident and emergency department may make a referral, or the family doctor can be asked to do this.

Treating depression: suicidal feelings may be linked to being depressed. Depression is a serious illness but can be successfully treated by anti-depressant medication and/or 'talking and listening treatments'. Further information about depression and its treatment can be obtained from Depression Alliance.

Extra help in a crisis

If you feel that the situation is getting worse rather than better, and you are worried about another suicide attempt, trust your instinct and share your concerns straight away. Contact the family doctor, or any professional who has been involved already. These people cannot discuss confidential details with you, but they will want to listen to what you are saying and they can follow it up.


is a PAPYRUS telephone service providing support, information and practical advice to anyone concerned that a young person they know may be at risk of suicide. Phone 0870 170 4000

HOPELineUK is staffed by trained professionals who can discuss your needs in coping with someone who is feeling suicidal.

Our staff have access to a comprehensive database and can give you contact details of other sources of help should they be required.

The helpline is open on weekday evenings from 7pm - 10pm and during the weekends from 2pm - 5pm.

We also operate a callback service. If the helpline is busy or if you need to call outside our opening hours you can leave a message on the answer machine and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

YoungMinds is the national charity committed to improving the mental health of all children. Services include the Parents’ Information Service, a free, confidential telephone helpline offering information and advice to any adult with concerns about the mental health of a child or young person. The free telephone number is 0800 018 2138
The helpline is open at the following times:
Monday and Friday: 10am - 1pm;Tuesday and Thursday: 1pm - 4pm; Wednesday 1pm - 4pm and 6pm - 8pm .

Plus, they also produce leaflets and booklets for adults and young people. These are available on their website.

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