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Youth suicide

9-minute read

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or thinking about suicide, call triple zero (000) or Lifeline on 13 11 14. Don’t leave the person alone until help arrives.

Key facts

  • Suicide is the leading cause of death among young Australians.
  • Common risk factors for suicide include mental health conditions, physical illnesses or disabilities, substance use and prior suicide attempts.
  • Common signs of suicide risk include sudden mood or behaviour changes, aggression, irritability, talk of death, self-harm and engaging in risky behaviour.
  • Young people may be less likely to attempt suicide if they are resilient and have positive relationships with parents or other adults and close friends.
  • A young person at risk of suicide should see a qualified mental health professional to get the right treatment and support.

How common is suicide in young people?

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 — this is more than the number who die on the roads. For every youth suicide completed, there are 100 to 200 more attempts.

Who is at risk of suicide?

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

Common risk factors for suicide include:

Other things that put young people at risk include:

How can I protect against suicide?

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 you know is considering suicide — but there are things you can do to help.

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 death as the only way out.

With support, they can work through the crisis.

Young people are at a lower risk of 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 reduce risk of suicide.

What are some of the warning signs for suicide?

Never ignore the warning signs that a young person may be thinking about suicide. A young person that is thinking about suicide may express feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. They may feel very alone and misunderstood.

Common behaviours and warning signs for suicide include:

  • showing a drastic change in mood or behaviour
  • being aggressive and irritable
  • talking about dying a lot, or making arrangements for after their own death
  • having access to weapons, sharp objects or medicine
  • self-harming (such as cutting their skin)
  • engaging in risky behaviour
  • using a lot of alcohol or 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 become involved in criminal activity or run away from home.

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

What should I do if I or someone I know is having suicidal thoughts?

If you, or someone you know, is having suicidal thoughts and is in immediate danger, 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 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, medicines or a car.

Do not promise to keep it a secret — they need professional help. Let them know you will support them. Ask them to commit to telling you or another adult if they are feeling like this again. Reassure them that help is available.

What should I do in the longer term?

A young person at risk of suicide should 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.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

You can also help the person 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 find out how to download it from Beyond Blue.

Resources and support

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you can call one of the following hotlines to speak to a mental health professional. These services are all available 24 hours a day / 7 days a week.

If there's an immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please call triple zero (000).

For more information about suicide prevention and support for young people with suicidal thoughts, visit the following websites (please note these organisations do not provide crisis support):

Call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 at any time to speak to a registered nurse (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria) for more information and advice.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2023

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