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

Are you worried about a young person? Two worried-looking cartoon young peopleSupporting 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.

Spot the signs

  • You can talk to me about anything. I want to helpKnowing some of the signs can help identify if someone is having suicidal thoughts.
  • Talking about being useless or ‘nothing to live for’
  • Saying people would be better off without them
  • Finding it hard to cope with every day things
  • Not wanting to talk or be around people
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope
  • Seems worried, distant or agitated
  • Changed in their sleeping habits (sleeping much more or not at all)
  • Visiting people they care about and almost (or actually) saying ‘goodbye’
  • Giving things away, especially items that are important to them
  • Suddenly seem calm or happy after they’ve been really low or depressed
  • Always writing, drawing or talking about death
  • Searching the internet about suicide
  • Has a suicide plan
  • Saying they hear voices telling them to hurt themselves (in this case make a GP appointment, take them to A and E or contact emergency services).

Risk factors

Anyone can feel like this and at any time, but some young people may be at higher risk if they have:

  • Attempted suicide before
  • Had depression, low mood or an eating disorder
  • Lost a friend or family member (especially if to suicide)
  • Been a victim of bullying, violence or sexual abuse
  • Seen domestic violence in the home
  • No real friendship group
  • Pressure or being embarrassed on social media
  • Issues around gender or sexual orientation
  • Difficulty coping with exam stress
  • Use alcohol or drugs regularly
  • Had a major disappointment in their life (failed exams, relationship break-up, dropped from the team)
  • A serious or physical illness

How to be supportive

I'm really sad to hear you're feeling like this, how can I help?Talk to them. You could try some of these to start the conversation…


  • You’re looking troubled, what‘s the matter? How is this making you feel?
  • How often have you had these thoughts?
  • When do you most think about this? (day, night)
  • Have you ever felt like or tried to hurt or kill yourself? (eg; taking tablets)
  • Are you thinking about hurting or killing yourself at the moment?
  • Do you have a plan? (place, method, items to use)
  • What has stopped you giving in to these thoughts?
  • Have you told anyone how you are feeling?
  • Who can you talk to about how you are feeling?
  • Who can you call at any time (apart from me) if you need to talk?
  • Do you have contact details of where you can get support?
  • When things have been really hard before what’s helped you get though?

Listen! Do not judge!

Sometimes it’s easier to write down or draw how you feel. It can also be a distraction when talking.

  • Show you care: maybe touch their hand, give a hug and believe in their pain. See things from their point of view
  • Keep their hopes up: try and make them feel better about themselves; share things you like about them, their qualities, their skills, why they are special and remind them of positive things to look forward to in the near future.
  • Reassure them: 1 in 4 young people experience these thoughts and feelings so they are not alone and encourage them not to be afraid to talk.
  • Feelings will pass: Try to agree to put some time between thoughts and any actions. This will allow the feelings to pass and for things to be clearer so you can both find different solutions.

Be practical

I really want you to stay with us...we need some helpIf not at immediate risk, go to the GP, ring NHS Choices 111 or contact the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

  • Stay with them and keep them talking.
  • Agree with them how they can keep safe such as remove any items that may be used and stay away from unsafe places.
  • Agree what can be put into place to help. Identify people they would talk to.
  • Encourage them to make a ‘box’ full of feel good things, music, DVD’s, items with happy memories. This can help them get through a difficult day or night.
  • Make sure they have details of where they can access support, so they know what to do if the strong feelings return.
  • Support them to make a safety plan.

In an emergency

If they are at immediate risk, need medical treatment or have a plan and are going to act on it;

  • Call your emergency crisis team (CAHMS) or go with them to A and E
  • If this is not possible call the emergency services on 999
  • Stay with them until support arrives
  • Remove any obvious means of suicide (rope, belts,tablets, sharp objects etc)
  • Try to stay calm and re-assure them you are staying with them and you care
  • Keep them talking
  • Keep yourself safe

Look after yourself

  • Ensure you have someone you trust who you can to talk to
  • Take time out for yourself
  • Access websites and services that can support you as well


Samaritans any time, free from any phone on 116 123 or email: or Text: 07725 909090.

They also have a drop-in (see their website).

Young Minds Parent’s Helpline

Tel: 0808 802 5544 (free for mobiles and landlines) open Monday to Friday (offers 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

Offer support if you are worried about someone and need to talk or find how best to support them. Call 080 068 41 41 or text 07786 209 697 or email:

Support and services

Make sure you have details of where to get support

A doctor or NHS direct

Details of your GP or NHS direct call free on 111 24 hour helpline providing health advice and access to out of hours GP


Free, any time, from any phone on 116 123
email: Text: 07725 909090.
Samaritans have a drop in at the local Wakefield branch (see their website).


Free, safe and anonymous online support for 11 to 19 year olds


Online, on the phone anytime on 0800 1111.

Papyrus HopeLine

Call 080 068 41 41 or text 07786 209 697 or email:
Offer online text or phone support to young people.


Their website has resources for children and young people, parents and professionals.

CALM: (Campaign Against Living Miserably)

Offers help via the website and a helpline for men aged 15 – 35

Heads Above the Waves

Online advice, support and coping strategies for young people suffering from depression and self harm.


A creative site for young people to communicate with others and express their encouraging experiences through the use of blogs, stories, poetry and art.


A safe place to listen, share and be heard.

The Mix

Young people’s guide and support on a range of issues and worries.

Inspiring Futures (Turning Point)

Call 0300 123 1912   Email  

Wakefield young person and young adult's (under 25) confidential Drug and Alcohol Service, also has a free helpline for family members.


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

Doc Ready

Helps to prepare people to talk about mental health to the GP.

Well Women Centre

01924 211114 - Face to face counselling and groups for 16 year +

Stay Alive App

An App to download from the Grassroots Suicide Prevention website

Download the suicide prevention leaflet