Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

How to help young people with suicidal thoughts

This article provides practical advice on how to help someone you care for if they express suicidal thoughts.

Suicidal thoughts in young people

It’s not uncommon for depressed teenagers to have thoughts about not wanting to live or about suicide, whether or not they intend to act on these thoughts – suicidal thoughts and suicidal behaviour can be symptoms of moderate to severe depression. These symptoms typically respond to proper treatment.

It’s important to help teenagers to talk to someone about their thoughts to ensure their safety. If you’re concerned then we suggest that you ask direct questions such as ‘Are you having thoughts about harming yourself in any way?’, ‘Do you have thoughts about not wanting to be alive?’.

Help in the UK

In the UK, your first point of call for help would normally be your General Practitioner (or out of hours service) or local Accident and Emergency service.

ChildLine who can be contacted on freephone number 0800 1111 and The Samaritans who can be contacted on freephone number 116 123 or via email which you can find on their contact us page, is another source of help based in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

It’s important to note that both Samaritans and Childline are UK and Ireland based charities.

Since 2003, Samaritans has been working with Befrienders Worldwide, a network of 400 international centres in 39 countries set up to help people who need emotional support, to talk about problems, in a confidential space.

In order to find out if the scheme works in your country, please visit their website for more information.

Note for all adults supporting a young person with depression

It’s a myth that talking about suicide with someone who is very low and has thoughts about ending their life will increase the likelihood of suicide. Having this discussion may understandably make you nervous or anxious.

However, seriously suicidal people make such comments for a variety of reasons – it’s extremely important to take these remarks seriously and help that person seek appropriate support and treatment. A person in crisis may not be aware that they are in need of help or be able to seek it on their own.

They may also need to be reminded that effective treatment for depression is available and that many people can very quickly begin to experience relief from depressive symptoms.

© University of Reading
This article is from the free online

Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now