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.
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
- 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.
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:
- Feelings and thoughts following a death by suicide
- When should children return to school after a bereavement?
- When someone in your family dies by suicide
Schools can also contact Winston’s Wish for help with supporting a student:
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