YSPLOGOSM.GIF (4829 bytes)
How Can I Help
From the Australian Youth Suicide Prevention campaign:

All suicide threats must be taken seriously. While contemplating suicide, an adolescent's perception of reality is often quite different from actual reality. If contact is made with a young person who is suspected of showing suicidal tendencies, it is essential to take rapid and appropriate action. Do not assume the situation will cure itself. It is far better to take action if the possibility of suicide exists, than to deal with the aftermath of a suicide. While caution is required, what you do between identifying the imminent risk and the arrival of professional help may save a life. During this time, you can assist the adolescent to feel less isolated and alone.

Suicide Intervention Is Based on an Approach of:
  • Affirming the person using whatever technique one feels comfortable with to make the
  • adolescent feel valued and worthwhile.
  • Affirming the problem-recognising the adolescent's concerns about the problem and not
  • denying the issue or its importance to the person.
  • Negating the solution presenting alternatives and facilitating different perspectives with the
  • adolescent in such a way as to avoid lecturing or preaching.

The Following Guidelines for Dealing with Youth with Suicidal Tendencies May Prove Useful:

  • Believe the person-take the person's claims seriously.
  • Be calm and understanding-don't sound shocked by anything the person tells you.
  • Show concern, listen carefully and ask constructive questions about the way the person is
  • thinking and feeling .
  • Suggest that the person get professional help as soon as possible. Refer to the list of contacts
  • in this kit. Help the person make this contact. Check that appointments are kept.
  • If the person refuses or is incapable of seeking help, immediately consult with a health or
  • welfare professional for advice on how to handle the situation. This should be done with the
  • parent's involvement. However, in emergencies, direct action without the consent of the
  • parents may be necessary.

What To Do If Your Child Talks About Suicide

Show Your Understanding and Support by:

  • Being there fully
  • Listening and encouraging them to talk.
  • Acknowledging their fear, sadness or despair.
  • Showing you are taking their concern seriously..
  • Providing reassurance without dismissing the problem.

Try to Avoid:

  • Interrupting with stories of your own.
  • Being judgemental or moralising.
  • Offering too much advice.
  • Becoming angry
  • Panicking.

In Dealing with a Suicidal Adolescent You Should:

  • Be willing to listen and hear. Reflect back the thoughts and feelings of the person.
  • Show interest, concern and a willingness to help.
  • Avoid judging the person's problems. While the breakup of relationships, for example, may
  • seem trivial, it can be significant to an adolescent
  • Be sensitive to the relative seriousness of the thoughts and feelings.
  • Be prepared to ask it the person is thinking of hurting or killing themselves.
  • Avoid panic if the answer is 'yes'.
  • Avoid debating suicide as an option, moralising or challenging the person. It may be more
  • useful to accept what has been said and to suggest any action be postponed until other options
  • have been explored.
  • Avoid allowing yourself to be sworn to secrecy.
  • Get help from professionals.
  • Build support and trust.
  • Present options.
  • Use mainly open-ended questions, with closed questions when a definite response is needed.
  • Watch and listen for warning signs.
  • Show a willingness to discuss the issue of suicide openly and frankly.
  • Tell the person you care.
  • Trust your knowledge, observations and feelings.
  • Assess lethality.
  • Use terms like 'harm yourself' and 'kill yourself'.
  • Involve others, for example, colleagues, family and friends.
  • Inform the person you must act on the information and inform others.
  • Stay with the person if he or she is considered to be an acute risk.
  • Acknowledge the reality of suicide as a choice, but indicate that there are other alternatives
  • Acknowledge the person's feelings of hopelessness.
  • Convey a message of hope.
  • Point out the consequences of suicide for the person and those left behind.
  • Establish a plan for what is to happen next.
  • Take action and affirm that something is being done.
  • Ensure no access to lethal weapons and medications.
  • Give 24-hour emergency contact numbers.
  • Keep calm.
  • Show empathy.
  • Keep diagnosis, analysis and interpretation to yourself.
  • If possible, follow-up and monitor progress after the immediate crisis is over.

Further Information
Mental Health Library
1st Floor, Clinical Services Centre Royal Park Hospital
Park Street Parkville, Victoria 3052
Tel: (03) 9342 2574/5
Fax: (03) 9342 2578
E-mail: Mhealth@Vicnet.net.au 
August 1996

Back to SOSAD