Suicidal feelings and thoughts

A small number of children and young people experiencing low mood or depression may feel hopless and think that life is not worth living.

These feelings will usually have built up incrementally over time or in reaction to specific events.

Many things can prompt suicidal feelings and thoughts.  These can include children and young people who:

  • are living with mental ill health, like anxiety or depression
  • are experiencing abuse
  • are being bullied and being a bully (with a personal history of victimisation)
  • are experiencing complex grief
  • have very low self-worth
  • live with complex family issues (such as parental disputes, neglect, hostile and chaotic home environments)

Concerned about a child or young person?

If you are worried that a child or young person is at risk involve your designated safeguarding lead as a matter of priority, who will contact the parents/carers and other services as necessary. If the child or young person is at immediate risk, ensure that they are taken to their GP or A&E as a matter of urgency, depending on the severity of the concern.

Find out more.

Identifying the signs

Children and young people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts may often not express them or ask for help. Some signs to look out for include:

  • persistent low mood, sadness or depression
  • regularly talking about death
  • self-harming
  • no interest in daily life or school activities
  • having trouble sleeping or eating
  • feeling helpless or hopeless

Supporting a suicidal child or young person should never be the sole responsibility of the school, and the student’s parents/carers should also be informed as soon as possible.

If schools are significantly concerned about a child or young person presenting with suicidal thoughts and feelings, preferably in collaboration with their parents/carers, they should always seek advice from specialist services, like CAHMS, in order to request a psychiatric assessment of risk.

If there is a suicide in the school community

Children and young people with experience of suicide

A bereavement is a difficult and painful experience for any child or young person. When the bereavement occurs because of suicide, the emotions a child or young person experience may be very complex, with feelings of guilt, shame or blame as well as grief and loss.

These emotions may be very difficult to manage for a child or young person. A suicide of a loved one is a traumatic event, and trauma can change the way children and young people see their environment and the people in. It can affect children’s emotions, memory, behaviour and ability to learn.

Bereveavement charity Winston’s Wish have lots of useful information on supporting children and young people who have experience of suicide:

Schools can also contact Winston’s Wish for help with supporting a student:

What schools and further education settings can do

Concerned about a child?

If you are worried that a child is at risk involve your designated safeguarding lead as a matter of priority who will contact the parents/carers and other services as necessary. If the child is at immediate risk, ensure that they are taken to their GP or A&E as a matter of urgency, depending on the severity of the concern.

Find out more

Related resources

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Supporting pupils bereaved by suicide
Secondary

Supporting pupils bereaved by suicide

This webpage provides practical guidance for helping children and young people who are bereaved by...

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Free online training for staff on suicide prevention

Free online training for staff on suicide prevention

This free online training takes around 20 minutes to complete and offers insights into suicide along...

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Coping with suicidal feelings
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Coping with suicidal feelings

This video offers a young person’s perspective on what it may feel like to have suicidal feelings...

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Supporting children with suicidal feelings
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Supporting children with suicidal feelings

Resources on supporting children with suicidal feelings.

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