A statement on recent suicide statistics for young people and students

Connecting with People
May 27 2016



Every suicide is a tragedy but the loss of a young person to suicide is even more devastating. Suicide is preventable. Suicidal people are in extreme emotional pain and are often ambivalent about dying. Their lives can be saved up until the final moment. People take their own lives because the distress of living becomes too great or illness or other personal circumstances seem intolerable.  Statistics published by the National Confidential Inquiry this week are sober reading. Dr Cole-King, Clinical Director, Connecting with People states that “We wish we could reach every young person who is thinking that life isn’t worth living and help them to see that their feelings are a sign that they need to change something in their life, not to end their life”.

Research has repeatedly shown that encouraging help-seeking behaviour and ensuring an appropriate and early response saves lives. Increasing hopefulness, emotional resilience, and helping someone to identify their reasons for living, have all been proven to lead to a reduction in suicide rates. Teenage life is not always straightforward. It can be a challenging and complex time with academic and social pressures that can at times create a perfect storm of distress. The National Confidential Inquiry statistics show that a significant number of the young people who died by suicide had experienced life events such as bereavement, family ill health, neglect or abuse but for some it was a more ‘routine’ event such as exam pressure or common conditions such as asthma or acne that may have been the ‘final straw’. It is important that adults listen to young people and realize that for some a seemingly ‘minor’ issue could lead to suicide and to take every suicidal thought seriously. The majority of young people who end their lives by suicide are not in touch with mental health services around the time of their death. However, they are almost certainly always in contact with someone who could provide an opportunity to support. 

Sadly, half of all young people who have died by suicide had a history of self-harm. The good news is that this knowledge provides an opportunity for suicide prevention for some. Most young people who self- harm are able to develop alternative ways of coping and replace the act of self-harm with less harmful coping strategies ‘Talking not Harming’ is an important transition in the road to recovery. Compassionate communication with people at risk of suicide saves lives. For those young people at risk of suicide, connecting with an empathic, confident and competent person could be their tipping point back to safety, when they start to receive and accept help to deal with their problems and find a way forward. 

Shame and fear of discovery mean that young people often keep self-harm a secret. Unless medical treatment is required following self-harm, it is not usually reported.  The reasons why people don’t seek help following self-harm aren’t known, however it seems likely that stigma is an important factor. On the other hand some may not disclose their self-harming behaviours because no one actually asks them if anything is wrong.  

Secrecy is the big enemy here and encouraging young people to talk is the most important thing, Taking the time to ask a young person if everything is OK and responding in a caring, non-judgemental way is vital for creating a good foundation for discussions. Thousands of young people experience overwhelming thoughts of self harm every day, but they find ways to cope with these intense feelings. Like them, your child or the young person you care about, can work through their feelings.

It is never too late to take action,to help a situation that seems hopeless and every contact with individuals who self-harm is a opportunity to address the unbearable emotional distress that they are feeling.

There may be times when a young person’s level of distress is so severe that it will impair their ability to see an alternative to suicide, even where the impact of psychosocial stress, severe life events or illness could be mitigated with the right support. At such times, the moral imperative to reach out in order to save their life may necessitate the difficult decision to call for emergency help on their behalf, if their whereabouts are known. 

People who self-harm or are close to suicide, but choose to seek help and receive support, are much less likely to end their own life. Furthermore, the majority of people who attempt suicide and survive, never try to take their own life again. If we can support a young person in distress and at risk of suicide, there is a good chance that we will save their life. 

Many people don’t know how to approach someone who they think might be engaging in self harm and people who are distressed or overwhelmed and considering self harm, do not know where to go for help. Connecting with People have produced a series of leaflets on behalf of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, providing information for both individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts and those who are concerned. These are available through the Royal College of Psychiatrists or the Connecting with People website: http://Connectingwithpeople.org/ucancope

Dr Cole-King  said “It’s key that every young person considering self-harm or suicide needs to know they can be supported through tough times. They need a Safety Plan with details of what they can do to help themselves and who they can contact for support. Information about how to make a Safety Plan can be found in the ‘Feeling Overwhelmed and Helping You Stay Safe’ resource. This is an Interactive online resource for anyone struggling to offer hope, compassion and practical ideas and suggestions on how to find a way forward 


Royal College of Psychiatrists leaflet on self-harm http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/self-harm.aspx


About Connecting with People

Connecting with People is an organisation of passionate professionals, united by a desire to reduce the stigma associated with mental health difficulties, by actively promoting a whole-community, cross-sector approach to self-harm. We have successfully collaborated with numerous organisations to disseminate our approach of building wellbeing, resilience and resourcefulness in young people. We offer two modes of training delivery to maximise delegate attendance at minimal cost. Our Direct-to-Participant modules can accommodate up to 30 delegates at a time, with our Train-the-Trainer programmes helping organisations to build a team of in-house trainers who are qualified to run sessions themselves.