Suicide is the deliberate act of causing one’s own death. Suicide was the leading cause of death for people aged 15-24 years in 2015, accounting for over a quarter of deaths of males. Given the prevalence and serious nature of suicide it is important to talk about suicide with young people, to ensure they can seek professional support when needed, and are able to recognise if someone they know is at risk.
Signs this might be a problem:
- if a person continually talks of death i.e. suggesting the world would be better off without them
- feeling and discussing life as hopeless, with no positive focus possible
- a history of suicide attempts
- family history of suicide
- self harm or a history of self harm
- symptoms of clinical depression, such as social withdrawal, or losing pleasure in activities once enjoyed.
What is suicide?
Suicide is the intentional act of causing one’s own death. In Australia approximately 2,000 people commit suicide each year. Roughly 87% of those who do so will have experienced some form of mental illness. The ABS estimates that for each death by suicide there may have been up to 30 previous attempts, a statistic which reinforces the preventable nature of suicide.
Young men are the most at risk for suicide. In 2011, four out of five deaths by suicide were male (across all ages), and suicide was the cause of death for 27.8% of the deaths of males aged 15-24 years. Young men of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background, who identify as gay, bisexual or transgender and live in remote or rural communities are at the greatest risk of suicide. In 2011, 17 of the 53 deaths by suicide of children were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
Other people who may experience greater risk for suicide include those experiencing mental illness, especially (but not limited to) clinical depression and schizophrenia, or people who have a history of self harm or have made previous suicide attempts. Suicidal thoughts and attempts are often influenced or may be exacerbated by drug and alcohol use.
Signs and symptoms associated with suicide:
- clinical depression (which may include sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, lack of interest in activities previously found pleasurable, social withdrawal)
- frequent suicidal thoughts, dreams or fantasies
- previous suicide attempts
- feelings of intense sadness, hopelessness or desperation
- preoccupation with death, which may be noticed by friends or family members
- family history of suicide, or recent bereavement.
What young people can do about suicide
If somebody feels they or a person they know, are experiencing suicidal thoughts or are at risk of suicide the first step is to seek professional assistance.
If a young person is worried about a friend or relative, the first step they can take is to encourage and assist that person to seek professional support, whether it be a counsellor, teacher, doctor or psychologist. Given the immense stress this can place on the friends and family of someone at risk of suicide, it is also a good idea to encourage them to seek support services for themselves to ensure they are coping.
If someone is in immediate risk of suicide it is important they are not left alone until professional support is accessed.
ReachOut.com resources on suicide
- My friend is suicidal
- What to do if you have thoughts about wanting to die
- Thinking about how to commit suicide
- Make your own safe plan
- How to help a friend with depression
Recommended professional resources
The Suicide Call Back Service provides excellent resources on support people who are contemplating suicide. They also provide free telephone counselling 24/7 on 1300 659 467, and free online counselling.
Suicide Call Back Service resources:
How to help
- Be open and supportive, and persistent.
- Assess the presence of suicidal thoughts, plans and means.
- Decide with the young person how to manage the risk of suicide and maintain safety.
- Read the resource Estimating the risk of suicide for an in depth guide to assessing and responding to suicidal ideation.