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
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
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
For some people there may be no apparent reason for
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
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
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
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
Listen - this is the most
important thing you can do.
Treat them with respect, and try not to be judgmental
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.