Supporting a child or young person with stress, depression or suicidal thoughts

Supporting someone who’s having suicidal thoughts is both physically and emotionally exhausting.

You need to take care of yourself and know where to go for support and advice, make sure you have someone you trust to talk to openly and honestly. It is important to take any suicidal thoughts or attempts seriously.

We can all feel helpless sometimes in our lives and there may be many reasons for this. These may be a result of current or past situations but sometimes we have these thoughts and feeling for no reason at all.

Sometimes young people act on impulse ‘the final straw’ so spotting the signs early is important. Support can help them see things more clearly and realise there are other options out there. It also allows time for the negative feelings to pass.

Contents on this page

Spot the signs

Bird with a yellow speech bubble reading: "You can talk to me about anything, I want to help"
  • talking about feeling useless or that people would be better off without them
  • not wanting to do the things they usually enjoy
  • not wanting to be around family and friends
  • increased alcohol or drugs use (including prescription drugs)
  • being more angry or distant than usual
  • changes in sleep patterns and eating habits
  • neglecting themselves and not caring about their appearance
  • saying ‘goodbye’ to friends and family as if they won’t see them again
  • giving things away, especially items important to them
  • suddenly seem calm or happy after they’ve been really low
  • writing, drawing or talking about death or suicide (even in a joking way)
  • searching the internet about suicide or methods
  • having a suicide plan
  • saying they hear voices telling them to hurt themselves (in this case make a GP appointment, take them to the Emergency Dept
    • or contact emergency services)

What can increase the risk?

Although anyone can have suicidal thoughts and at any time in their life, some things increase the risk of young people taking their own life, these include:

  • previous suicide attempts
  • having a low mood that lasts for a long time
  • having an eating disorder where the control of how much food they eat is used to cope
  • loss of someone close (especially by suicide) or loss of a pet
  • victim of bullying or violence
  • having no real friends
  • pressure or being embarrassed on social media
  • struggling with their sexuality or gender identity
  • feelings of guilt or under too much pressure to succeed
  • alcohol or drug misuse (increases risk taking)
  • important life changes (such as break-ups, living situation)
  • trauma and abuse
  • having a serious or physical illness
  • acting on impulse
  • self-harm with injury

Self-harm with injury is mentioned as a possible warning sign, but self-harm is often a way of coping and does not in itself mean they have suicidal thoughts or intentions.

Be supportive

Green speech bubble reading: "I'm really sad to hear you're feeling like this, how can I help?"

Show you care: Ask if you can give them a hug or hold their hand.

See things from their point of view and believe in their pain.

Have patience: They may not tell you everything straight away.

Don't fill the silence: You may find yourself asking unimportant questions.

Listen, listen, listen: You don't need to have answers but listening shows that you care.

Keep their hopes up: Try to make them feel better about themselves; share things you like about them, their qualities, their skills, why they are important and remind them of positive things to look forward to (in the near future). If they mention something they care about (a pet, sibling, sport, place) try to keep this positive connection going.

Reassure them: 1 in 4 people experience these thoughts and feelings so they are not alone, let them know it's okay to talk or cry. If they cry, just sit with them.

Feelings will pass: Try to agree what they can do to keep themselves safe right now (pages 11 and 12). This will put some time between harming thoughts and any actions, it will allow the feelings to pass, once things are calmer you can work together to find different solutions.

Listen! Do not judge!

Try to avoid…

  • changing the subject (they may feel unheard)
  • saying ‘man up’ ‘you’ll get over it’ (they may feel dismissed)
  • getting too emotional (they may feel guilty for upsetting you)
  • saying things like ‘don’t be doing anything stupid’ (they could feel criticised)
  • fixing the problem (they may feel they have no control)
  • dismissing their emotional pain (they may feel alone)
  • blaming yourself

Practical help

Ways to help them stay safe for now and in the future.

Bird with red speech bubble reading: "I really want you to stay with us... we need some help"

If they are not at immediate risk, ring their GP or contact the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) single point of access (SPA) for advice as soon as possible.

This is available 9am – 5pm Mon – Fri Tel: 01977 735865

If the young person is over 18yrs contact the adult single point of contact.
Tel: 01924 316900

  • re-assure them, stay with them, and keep them talking
  • agree with them how they can keep safe right now (such as remove any items that may be used and stay away from unsafe or isolated places)
  • agree what can be put in place to help now and in the future
  • support them to identify people who they would talk to (a family member, a trusted person in school, college, university or at work, a GP or helpline)
    • make a list of these contact numbers and websites, so the young person can access support 24/7 (see pages 17-18) and encourage them to keep a copy in their room and numbers in their phone, so they know what to do if the strong feelings return
  • try out some of the coping techniques with them
    • these are found on the support websites on page 17-18

In an emergency

If they are at immediate risk or need urgent medical treatment go to your nearest Emergency Department (A&E) or call 999.

If you feel the situation is at crisis or the young person has a suicide plan, and they are going to act on it, talk to someone straight away and seek help.

Contact the CAMHS ReACH team (new crisis team). A parent/carer or professional can ring for advice and support in a crisis, the young person can do it themselves if they are over 16.

This is available between 9am – 8pm, seven days a week. Tel: 01977 735865
If the young person is over 18yrs contact the adult single point of contact
Tel: 01924 316900

Contact their GP (there is an out-of-hours service) or NHS 111.
Be clear and tell them what is happening and why you are worried. The people answering these calls are friendly and are used to helping people talk about difficult things.

  • stay with them until support arrives or the situation is calmer
  • remove any obvious means of suicide or harm (rope, belts, tablets, sharp objects etc)
  • try to stay calm and re-assure them you are staying with them and that you care
  • keep them talking
  • keep yourself safe

Look after yourself

Supporting someone who is having suicidal thoughts is hard!

If you are supporting a friend talk to their parent or a trusted adult. Do not try to support them by yourself.

  • ensure you have someone you trust who you can talk to
  • talk to your GP about talking therapies for yourself
  • take time out
  • join a local or national support group
  • access websites and services that can support you as well

Samaritans: Tel: 116 123 free from any phone, any time.

They also have a drop-in at the local Wakefield branch (see their website for more information).

Young Minds Parent's Helpline: Tel: 0808 802 5544 (free for mobiles and landlines) open Monday to Friday (offering advice and support to any adult who is concerned about a child/young person's mental health up to the age of 25).

The Papyrus HopeLine:
Tel: 080 068 41 41,
Text 07786 209 697


Email: who offer support if you are worried about someone and need to talk or find out how best to support them.

Support and services

  • GP or NHS Direct call free on 111:
    Offer a 24-hour helpline providing health advice and access to out of hours GP.

  • Samaritans: free, any time, from any phone
    Tel: 116 123

  • Kooth:
    Free, safe and anonymous online support for 11 to 25-year-olds.

  • Shout: Text: Shout to 85258
    A free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support for anyone who is struggling to cope.

  • Childline: are online (1-2-1 counsellor chat) and on the phone anytime for those under 19. Tel: 0800 1111

  • Papyrus HopeLine:
    Tel: 0800 068 41 41
    Text: 07786 209697
    Email: Offer online text or phone support to young people.

  • YoungMinds:
    Website full of resources for children and young people, parents, and professionals.

  • Night Owls: Tel: 0300 200 3900
    Text: 07984 392 700
    A confidential support line for children, young people, parents and carers. Available Mon-Fri 8pm -8am.

  • CALM: (Campaign Against Living Miserably)
    Tel: 0800 58 58 58
    Offers website support and daily helpline aimed at males.

  • Heads Above the Waves:
    Online advice, support and coping strategies for young people suffering from depression and self-harm.

  • SelfharmUK:
    A creative site for young people to communicate with others and express their encouraging experiences through blogs, stories, poetry, and art.

  • The Mix:
    Tel: 0808 808 4994 or Text: THEMIX to 85258 for crisis support. Offers advice and support on a range of issues including 1-2-1 chat (for under 25’s).

  • Inspiring Futures: Tel: 0300 123 1912
    A local drugs and alcohol service offering confidential advice and support for young people (under 25) and their families.

  • Mindout:
    Online instant message service that is confidential and anonymous to support and improve the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTQ communities.

  • Well Women Centre: Tel: 01924 211114
    Offers face-to-face counselling and groups for 16 year +.

  • Stay Alive App:
    An App to download from the Grassroots Suicide Prevention website.

  • Victim Support: Tel: 0300 303 1971
    Out of hours Support line 0808 16 89 111
    Provides emotional and practical support to anyone under 18 who has been affected by a crime.

  • BEAT
    Support and advice around eating disorders.

  • Hope Again for bereavement support.

  • STAR
    Local bereavement support for children and young people including those affected by suicide.

  • Safe Space Tel: 07776 962815
    Provides a safe place for people in crisis to go for 16yr and above.

  • WF-I-CAN
    Offers information, support, and self-care tips on a range of topics plus a one-to-one online chat service (see website for times or to arrange a chat).

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