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When a young person is expressing and acting on suicidal thoughts

Suicidal ideation can be an emergency, and as such any reported suicidal ideation should be taken seriously. There are a number of risk factors and warning signs to consider when working with a child and the Headspace resource Suicidal Ideation outlines these risks and signs.

Signs a young person may be suicidal:

  • threatening to hurt themselves by suicide
  • looking for ways to suicide
  • deliberately hurting themselves e.g scratching, cutting, burning
  • talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
  • hopelessness
  • feeling trapped, like there’s no way out
  • rage, anger, seeking revenge
  • acting recklessly, engaging in risky activities
  • increasing alcohol or drug use
  • withdrawing from friends, family or society
  • anxiety, agitation, changes in sleep or appetite
  • dramatic changes in mood
  • no reason for living, no sense of purpose in life.

(Headspace, 2009)

It is important to seek assistance from mental health professionals in collating a safety plan for a young person. A robust plan with the safety and support network is vital for safety and recovery.

Further reading

SANE Australia's factsheet How to help when someone is suicidal.

For further insight, undertake the Child Safety Training module Working with Young People: Understanding suicide.


See the procedure Support a child in care and the practice guide Self-harm and suicide risk for guidance regarding suicide risk alert, recording and safety planning.

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