Practitioners and professionals

Suicide prevention


What are the definitions deliberate self-harm and suicide?

Definitions from the Mental Health Foundation (2003) are:

  • deliberate self-harm is self-harm without suicidal intent, resulting in non-fatal injury;
  • attempted suicide is self-harm with intent to take life, resulting in non-fatal injury;
  • suicide is self-harm, resulting in death.
  • The difference between suicide and deliberate self-harm is not always so clear. For example, deliberate self-harm is a common precursor to suicide, also children and young people who deliberately self-harm may kill themselves by accident.

 Suicidal behaviour ranges from experiencing suicidal thoughts, to developing a plan, to a suicide attempt, to taking your own life. Many people experience suicidal thoughts but never take their own lives.


What does research tell us?

Suicide is statistically an uncommon event however the impact of one death both in human and economic terms is massive.

Suicide is often the end point of a complex history of risk factors and distressing events.

The suicide rate among teenagers is below that in the general population. However, young people are vulnerable to suicidal feelings. The risk is greater when they have mental health problems or behavioural disorders, misuse substances, have experienced family breakdown, abuse, neglect or mental health problems or suicide in the family. The risk may also increase when young people identify with people who have taken their own life, such as a high-profile celebrity or another young person. 

There is no one factor and what leads someone to take their own life it is complex.

There are a number of high risk groups including young men, looked after children, care leavers and children and young people in the Youth Justice System. 


What are the warning signs?

The following are signals that a young person may be thinking of suicide.

  • Direct and indirect statements about suicide;
  • Suicide notes and plans;
  • Prior suicidal behaviour;
  • Making final arrangements (giving away possessions);
  • Preoccupation with death;
  • Changes in appearance, thoughts and/or feelings;
  • Anything that’s out of character.


What to do?

Young people who are suicidal are frequently unlikely to seek help directly. Parents, teachers and peers can recognise the warning signs and take immediate action to keep them safe. The following actions should be taken.

  1. Ask openly and directly ‘Are you thinking about suicide?’
  2. Actively listen, remain calm and non judgemental, be polite and respectful, acknowledge the feelings expressed, try not to give advice; (if they answer yes to 1, continue listening and ask open questions about whether they have a current plan, whether they have attempted suicide before, and do they have the means to take their own life);
  3. If a young person has overdosed or has injuries which put their health at risk, it is important to seek immediate help, by arranging for them to be taken safely to Accident and Emergency by calling 999 ;
  4. Remove means if it is safe to do so.
  5. Ensure your own safety;
  6. Ensure the young person is not left alone;
  7. Seek immediate help – phone their GP and ask for an emergency home visit, or call 999, or take the young person to Accident and Emergency, or take them to their GP, or call NHS Direct, or call the Samaritans;
  8. Focus on concern for their well-being, if they are consuming alcohol or drugs encourage them to stop;
  9. Reassure then that help is available;



If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts yourself tell someone. If you are a young person yourself and are concerned about someone, tell an adult. If families, friends and colleagues become concerned that someone may be at risk of suicide it is important that they can get information and support as soon as possible.

An effective school-based suicide prevention strategy would include:

  • a co-ordinated school response to people at risk and staff training;
  • awareness among staff to help identify high risk signs or behaviours (depression, drugs, self-harm) and protocols on how to respond;
  • signposting parents to sources of information on signs of emotional problems and risk;
  • clear referral routes to specialist mental health services.


Where can I find further information?


Tel: 0800 068 4141

HOPELineUK is a national telephone helpline service which was launched in 2005. The service is confidential and provides a source of support, practical advice and information to anyone concerned that a young person they know may be at risk of suicide. 

HOPELineUK aims to support and inform parents, carers, siblings, friends and professionals who are worried about the management of a child or young person who they suspect is exhibiting suicidal behaviour, has harmed themselves or has tried to end their own life. The service can also offer support, practical advice and information to callers who may themselves be feeling suicidal. 

HOPELineUK (external website) 



Tel: 0800 11 11

Childline is a free and confidential helpline for children and young people in the UK. They can also be contacted by email and provide message boards. 

Childline - Talk to Us (external website)


YoungMinds Parents’ Helpline

YoungMinds Parents’ Helpline offers free confidential online and telephone support to any adult worried about the emotional problems, behaviour or mental health of a child or young person up to the age of 25. Call them on 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday 9.30am-4pm), email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or chat online (Monday to Friday 11am-1pm).

Young Minds (external website)



SANE provides emotional support and specialist information to anyone affected by mental illness, including families, friends and carers. 

SANEline – 0845 767 8000 from 6pm-11pm 


NHS 111

NHS 111 - Tel: 0845 4647

NHS 111


NHS Choices and Carers Direct

Information and advice online. 

NHS Choices Carers Direct (external website)

and if very urgent, the emergency services.


The Department for Health recently published a Statistical Update on Suicide which can be downloaded here:

The Department for Health's Statistical Update on Suicide


Is there local training?


A 3.5 hour workshop were you learn four basic steps to recognise persons with thoughts of suicide and connect them with suicide helping resources. 

To obtain details of this free Hull and East Riding safeTALK programme, including how you can register for the training or bring safeTALK to your workplace or community, please contact:


Lindsay Shelbourn 

Public Health Lead (Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, and School Nursing), 

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) 

A two-day training course for those who frequently come into contact with people expressing suicidal thoughts via their work. Please contact:


Lindsay Shelbourn

Public Health Lead (Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, and School Nursing), 

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Youth Mental Health First Aid courses in the East Riding

Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) is a new national two day course aimed at people working or living with young people (aged 11-18) who may be experiencing mental health problems. This also covers suicide prevention.


For more information or to register your interest in future course dates please contact:

Lindsay Shelbourn

Public Health Lead (Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, and School Nursing), 

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.