Supporting suicidal young people

— Skylight Trust

When a young person feels overwhelming despair, shame, self loathing, and/or personal isolation, they may be at an increased risk of suicide.​

If you are concerned about your immediate safety or the safety of someone else – Ring 111

New Zealand has the highest rate of suicide for young people in the developed world. It is not completely clear why young people are more vulnerable to suicide, but research indicates that it can be due to a combination of factors:

  • developmental stage - they are socially, physically and emotionally changing
  • increase of pressure - suddenly they are expected to deal with the adult world, when they have not developed the skills to be able to handle the stress
  • natural isolation from their primary support network, that occurs whilst they are working towards their independence from their whānau
  • a sense of not belonging anywhere, while they build their identity
  • lack of emotional regulation: where they feel intensely and are on the journey of learning how to manage their reactions
  • exposure to trauma: physical abuse, sexual abuse, bullying
  • lack of mental health support.

Don't wait until you see definite signs of suicidal behaviour - be proactive, and dare to have the difficult conversations with your young person.

Speak up if you are worried

If you are concerned that someone you know is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask, especially if they are a friend or whānau member.

You may worry that you could put the idea of suicide into the person’s head, but you can’t make a person suicidal by showing your concern. On the contrary, it may give them the opportunity to express their feelings, it can provide them with a sense of connection, and give them an outlet for their concerns and may reduce the risk of a suicide attempt.

Questions you could ask if you are concerned, but don't know where to start

  • i am worried about you, you don't seem to have been yourself lately?
  • is everything ok? I have noticed that you are ....
  • is there anything I can do to help you?
  • have you spoken to anyone about how you are feeling ?
  • i would really like to help you if I can, let me know if you would like to talk?

Remember when you are having this conversation:

  • be supportive
  • don't judge
  • listen
  • don't dismiss what they are feeling.

To help you assess how serious your concerns should be, you can follow these guidelines, as people who are at the highest risk in the immediate future have the:

  • intention to end their life
  • a specific plan
  • the means to carry out the plan
  • a time-frame.

You can ask them the following questions:

  • do you intend to take your life? (Intention)
  • do you have a plan to take your life? (Plan)
  • do you know how you are going to do it? (pills, gun, etc) (Means)
  • do you know when you plan to do this? (Time-frame)

If they are at high risk of suicide, seek immediate help by calling 111 (police, ambulance), or take them to the emergency department of the nearest hospital. This step will be scary for everyone, reassure them you are there for them, remember to support yourself as well.

Skylight is here to help you navigate this difficult time. We have contract counselling services in Wellington, Porirua, Lower Hutt, Churton Park, Kāpiti, Whangarei, Auckland, New Plymouth and Christchurch and a partnership network across Aotearoa for support in other regions.

Our specialised Resource Centre and library can support you with information, publications, books and dvds, accessible nationwide free of charge. Please follow the links to contact us for further information and access to the support you and your whānau need.

We invite you to find out about our Waves programme - an evidence-based, well-evaluated programme for people bereaved by suicide at any time in their lives (for 17+ years old) or Travellers - a school based programme promoting resilience and well-being in year 9 students.

For other information please see the attachments and links provided.

Resources Available at Skylight

Skylight is here to help you through difficult times. We can assist you in a variety of ways with information appropriate for your situation. You are welcome to visit us and receive free information and a support pack from our resource centre and borrow books from the specialist library. We also facilitate Professional Development training and offer Counselling support services for children, young people, family/whānau and individuals who are experiencing tough times.

Request a Pack Library

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