Suicide

Young man with grey hoodie on sitting against wall

Suicide is the deliberate act of causing one's own death. Suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 15-24 years, 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 students, 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.

Who is at risk of suicide?

Anyone can experience suicidal thoughts or be at risk of suicide. However, there are some groups where suicide is more common. This includes young men, young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, those in rural communities, young people who have previously attempted suicide, and LGBTQIA+ and gender diverse young people.

People who are experiencing mental health difficulties, such as depression and schizophrenia and young people who engage in self-harm are also at higher risk. It's important not to assume that someone is not at risk of suicide because they do not fit into these categories. Anyone can experience suicidal thoughts when they are distressed and believe that things aren't going to get better.

Signs and symptoms associated with suicide:

  • talk of death or suicide, even jokingly

  • expressions of hopelessness or being trapped

  • withdrawal from friends and family

  • increased usage of alcohol or other drugs

  • expressions of rage or revenge

  • dramatic changes in mood

  • research into suicide methods on the internet

  • the making of final arrangements, such as saying goodbye to friends and family and giving away possessions

  • they have been depressed for a significant period of time but then seem to be 'doing really well'.

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 student 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

  • Depression

  • How to help a friend with depression

The Suicide Call Back Service provides excellent resources to 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.