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Tragically every year there are about 24,000 cases of attempted suicide by young people aged 10-19 years just in England and Wales. This is one attempt every 20 minutes.

In the UK for people aged 15-24, suicide is the second biggest cause of death after road accidents. As many as 20-45 per cent of older adolescents say they have had suicidal thoughts.

Who is most at risk of suicide?

  • Men, particularly young men (who are three times more likely to commit suicide than women)
  • Girls aged 15-19 are more likely to try to kill themselves, but boys will be more likely than girls to die from the attempt
  • People with a history of self-harm

What makes people want to do this?

There's often not one simple reason why a person wants to take their own life. Most of the time it's when a number of problems have developed so that the person feels they can no longer cope with everything.

But there are certain factors that might increase the risk of suicide:

  • the death of somebody close
  • recent loss or the break up of a close relationship
  • a difficult or painful physical illness
  • bullying or abuse
  • getting into trouble
  • previous episodes of self-harm
  • boy/girlfriend problems
  • an unhappy family situation e.g. fighting with parents
  • depression or other mental health problem
  • history of suicide in the family
  • addiction or heavy use of alcohol or street drugs (approximately one in three adolescents who die by suicide have been under the influence of alcohol at the time of death)

Mental illness and suicide

The majority of people who die by suicide have some kind of psychiatric disorder or condition at the time of their death.

Conditions like schizophrenia and depression seem to have the highest risk along with drug and alcohol abuse. This is why it's very important to get treatment and help for these sorts of problems.

What are the signs of someone who may attempt suicide?

  • talking about it or preoccupation with death
  • drug or alcohol abuse
  • loss of interest in things they used to enjoy (withdrawn, upset or irritable behaviour)
  • personality changes
  • violence
  • running away
  • change in eating and/or sleeping habits
  • poor concentration
  • lack of care with appearance, schoolwork etc.
  • has signs of mental illness
  • have harmed or tried to kill themselves before

If someone says they are going to kill themselves, or you think that they might be thinking about killing themselves, always tell a trusted adult.

What if you are thinking of attempting suicide?

You may feel that things won't ever get better, but in reality it is likely that they will. In order to help yourself to feel better you need to either find a way to reduce the pain or, if this is not possible, find ways to improve how you cope with your problems.

Here are some tips:

  • Tell a friend, family member, doctor, school nurse, counsellor or other healthcare professional who will be able to offer advice and support.
  • If you tell someone and you don’t think that they are taking you seriously, tell someone else.
  • You may not feel like talking very much, but by talking about your feelings there's a chance you may start to feel a bit better.
  • Try to do things that you find enjoyable.
  • Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs (they will make you feel worse in the long-run).
  • Take care of your physical health, eat well-balanced meals and make sure that you get enough sleep.
  • Try not to be on your own.
  • Always talk to someone – they may give you some advice and ideas that you had not already thought of.

Looking forward

If a young person gets the help and treatment they need, the risk of suicide can be greatly reduced.

This is why it's important to tell someone and get help when you are feeling like everything has gone wrong and there is no way out.

There is a way out, and there are many people today who have recovered from suicide attempts or had suicidal feelings who do not feel this way anymore, and are very glad that they are alive today.

For more help and information

You do not have to feel alone - there is always somebody that you can talk to. If you need help try contacting one of the organisations below:

  • The Samaritans are always available to listen when you need someone to talk to. Call 08457 90 90 90.
  • YoungMinds is a charity that helps to improve the mental health of young people.
  • ChildLine are there to listen to any problems you have and will try to help you sort them out. Call 0800 1111. Or, if you cannot face speaking to somebody you can send them an email instead.
Last reviewed by the Samaritans and Great Ormond Street Hospital: 18 June 2008