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Youth suicide

5-minute read

If you, or someone you know, is having suicidal thoughts and is in immediate danger, please call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

Don’t leave the person alone until help arrives.

For help and support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, do not ignore the warning signs. There are things you can do, both to keep safe now and to get help in the future. It can be very worrying when someone wants to take their own life — but suicide can be prevented.

Many young people have intense emotions and think about dying from time to time. They may feel overwhelmed by distress or pain. They may not actually want to die, but they see taking their life as the only way out. 

With support, things can improve and they can work through the crisis.

Young people and suicide

Suicide is the leading cause of death among young Australians. More than 350 young people aged 18 to 24 take their own lives every year — more than die on the roads. For every youth suicide, there are 100 to 200 more attempts.

People of all ages, races, genders, incomes and family backgrounds die by suicide. But young people are especially at risk.

Having depression or another mental health condition is one of the most common risk factors for suicide. Other things that put young people at risk include:

  • previous suicide attempts
  • using substances such as drugs or alcohol
  • having a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar or PTSD
  • problems with family or romantic relationships
  • legal problems
  • a recent death or suicide of a family member or close friend
  • being bullied
  • having access to potentially harmful medications or weapons
  • having a physical illness or disability
  • being gay, lesbian, bisexual, gender-diverse or intersex
  • being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander

Young people are protected from attempting suicide if they are resilient and have positive relationships with parents or guardians, close friends and other adults. Helping young people feel safe, supported and part of the community are all important ways to protect them from suicide.

Warning signs

Never ignore the warning signs that a young person may be thinking about suicide. Common warning signs, behaviours and feelings include:

  • feeling hopeless
  • feeling worthless
  • feeling alone, like no-one understands
  • showing a drastic change in mood or behaviour
  • being aggressive and irritable
  • talking about dying a lot, or making arrangements for when they are dead
  • possessing weapons, sharp objects or medication
  • self-harming (such as cutting their skin)
  • doing risky things
  • using a lot of alcohol or illicit drugs

The person might lose interest in their friends or social activities. They may seem to stop caring about other people or events. Their school or work performance might suffer, and they might get into trouble with the police or even run away. They might also have problems sleeping. 

While it’s important not to ignore these signs, sometimes there is no indication that a person is thinking of suicide.  

What to do now

If it is an emergency, call triple zero (000) or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, the first thing to do is to talk about it. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Talking and listening allows a young person to open up about what they are going through and take the first steps towards getting help. See below for a list of helplines you can call now.

If you are with a young person who is thinking about suicide, do not leave them alone. Make sure the young person does not have access to things that they could harm themselves with, including sharp objects, drugs, weapons, medications or a car.

Do not promise to keep it a secret — they need professional help. Let them know you will support them. Get them to promise they will always tell you or another adult if they are feeling like this again.

What to do in the longer term

A young person at risk of suicide needs to see a qualified mental health professional. With the right treatment and support, their situation can improve.

The first step is to see a doctor for a mental health assessment. There are many different treatment options. 

You can also develop a suicide safety plan. This will help the young person go through a series of steps for when they are feeling suicidal, including noticing the warning signs, listing all the reasons to live, and taking steps to make themselves safe.

Beyond Now is an easy-to-use suicide safety planning app for smartphones. You can download it from Beyond Blue.

Where to get help

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Last reviewed: May 2021

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