How you can support a young person experiencing suicidality

Helping someone with suicidality is not always about managing their risk.  There are things you can do to help improve their strengths and increase their protective factors.  When young people have more resources to draw on and feel more capable to manage difficult experiences and emotions, their risk of suicide can decrease.

Help improve their self-management skills

If you have an understanding about what contributes to a young person’s suicidality, you are in a good position to help them find more positive ways to cope.  Helping young people understand their distress, develop skills to solve problems, and regulate their emotions will only strengthen their protective factors to suicidality.  

How can you tell if they are serious? Do they talk about suicide just to get attention?

Most people who talk about suicide are in pain and are often reaching out for support. Threatening suicide is an indication a young person needs professional support and more effective coping skills.  Any talk about suicide should be taken seriously.

Making a Safety Support Plan

A safety support plan is something that can be used to help young people deal with suicidal thoughts when they arise.  It also helps them have some control over their own safety.  When the young person is calm and clear-headed is a good time to explore aspects of this plan.  A good place to start is to explore alternative coping strategies that have worked for them or they might be willing to try when they experience some early warning signs of suicidal intention. Find out more about how to make a safety support plan on the Suicideline website.

A safety support plan should include:

  • Early warning signs for the young person to watch out for
  • The kinds of situations, thoughts, feelings that may lead to feeling suicidal
  • A list of coping strategies that can help them feel calmer e.g. music, breathing, meditation
  • A list of activities that can be used as distractions 
  • How to make the environment safe 

Helping young people feel more connected to family and friends

A huge protective factor for young person when it comes to suicidality is feelings of being connected to family and friends. Fostering these relationships, if appropriate, will give young people more supports to draw on when they are feeling distressed.

Look After Yourself

To be the best support to the young people in your care, you need to also look after yourself. Dealing with suicidality can be challenging and demanding. Having good self-care strategies yourself is important. 

Further Resources