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Health and Wellbeing
A Health and Well-being Wales Partner

It’s difficult to understand why someone with their life ahead of them would want to die, but every year many young people commit suicide.

The reasons for deciding to end their own life are usually complicated – and far more young men die by suicide than young women. When life becomes difficult, some young people feel emotionally overwhelmed and may not have the resilience to cope with what lies ahead.

Not all suicide attempts are successful – and some may be interpreted as a cry for help from someone who is desperate rather than a determined attempt at suicide. 

Losing someone to suicide can be extremely difficult to come to terms with, especially when it is a young person who has died. Knowing your child or someone close to you has taken their own life complicates the normal feelings of grief. You may feel anger towards them for leaving you, or blame yourself for not being able to prevent the suicide.

While these feelings are understandable, there is probably nothing you could have done to stop the suicide. Many young people who take their own lives do not show any outward signs of despair to those who love them.

What makes young people suicidal?

Mental health is the most significant risk factor for suicidal feelings, e.g. depression or bipolar disorder, although many young people who attempt or succeed in taking their own lives have had no formal diagnosis. Young people who take antidepressants can be particularly at risk.

Someone who self-harms or has an eating disorder is more likely to attempt suicide although the risk remains low.

There are countless reasons why a young person might think the only option is to end their life, including:

Warning signs

Sometimes – though not always – there are warning signs that a young person is thinking about suicide. These include:

  • threatening to hurt or kill themselves
  • talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
  • expressing feelings of hopelessness or being trapped
  • losing interest in life.

NHS Direct Wales has a full list of warning signs.

Suicide clusters

When one suicide or suicide attempt occurs in close succession to others in an area or community, e.g. a college, it is sometimes referred to as a copycat suicide or suicide cluster.

Suicide clusters are more likely among those under 25 and the same method of death is often used. Sometimes the young people involved know each other and the subsequent suicide attempts are caused by grief and being unable to cope. News coverage and social media may inadvertently glamorise suicide to a vulnerable young person.

How to help someone with suicidal thoughts

If you are worried that a young person might be thinking about suicide, don’t keep your concerns to yourself. Encourage them to talk about their feelings. Don’t judge, be patient and help them get the right support.

There are many organisations that will help day or night, including the Samaritans, Childline, Young Minds and Papyrus.

Young men who are unhappy or suicidal can get support from the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM).

It’s also worth talking to your GP. They will decide if your child needs professional help for an underlying mental health issue and can refer them to the right people for treatment.

If abuse was the trigger for the suicidal feelings, it is important to report it.

More information

Young Minds has a survival guide for parents who are worried about their child. There is also a parents’ helpline. Tel: 0808 802 5544

MIND has compiled an A-Z of mental health.

C.A.L.L. is a confidential helpline for mental health issues. Tel: 0800 132 737
Stonewall Cymru supports young gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people. Tel: 029 2023 7744

Big White Wall is an online mental health support service available 24/7 with self-help programmes and professionally trained ‘wall guides’. Members remain anonymous.

Help is at Hand is for anyone affected by suicide.

Last updated: 18/05/2018