Suicide is when an individual acts to end their own life voluntarily and intentionally. It’s different to self-harm. However self-harm is a risk factor for suicide, so it is important to not ignore it.
What is Self-Harm?
The term ‘self-harm’ is used to describe behaviours where a person intentionally injures or causes harm to themselves; these behaviours may include self-injury (such as cutting, bruising, or burning) or self-poisoning (such as taking too many tablets). Self-harm is often described as a way of coping with or expressing emotional distress or overwhelming built-up tension.
How to recognise self-harm?
Physical: Unexplained cuts, bruises or burns, keeping themselves covered (e.g., wearing long clothing in hot weather), signs of scratching or pulling their hair; such as redness
Emotional: Withdrawn, low mood, tearfulness, lack of motivation, low self-esteem, experiencing guilt or shame in relation to self-injury
What is Suicide?
“Suicide means to end your life intentionally. Experiencing thoughts of suicide can be frightening. Thoughts of suicide can seemingly come from nowhere or begin as fleeting thoughts of wanting to disappear or escape. They may progress into feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness and planning or taking steps to end your life.” (PAPYRUS, 2021)
How to recognise students at risk of suicide?
Risk factors might be situational or behavioural.
Situational risk factors could include adverse childhood experiences, academic pressures, bereavement, domestic violence, substance misuse, bullying or feeling different or as if they don’t belong
Behavioural risk factors could include recent changes to a young person’s behaviour or sleep pattern, a history of self-harm, feeling anxious or trapped, feelings of being a burden to others, low mood or withdrawal, loss of interest in activities or avoidance of others, feeling that there is no positive future, actively making plans for suicide
What can teachers do to support young people who self-harm or at risk of suicide?
When taking steps to support a young person who may be self-harming or having suicidal thoughts, remember to be CLEAR:
- Check for self-harm (or suicidal thoughts and intentions)
- Listen to their story
- Empathise and inform
- Apply self-help techniques
- Refer to a health professional
Young people are still learning to manage emotions and can feel intensely vulnerable when facing stressful experiences and life events. They may find it difficult to recognise their own poor mental health, and might not consider seeking help even when a crisis point has been reached.
Source: (Breathe Education)
Useful resources for CYP suicide prevention
Childline has advice for children having suicidal thoughts and information and tips for dealing with self-harm.
PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide is a UK charity dedicated to the prevention of suicide and the promotion of positive mental health and emotional well-being in young people.
R;pple Suicide Prevention Tool is a free browser extension that signposts people who have searched for suicide or self-harm content to mental health support and advice. You should consider adding this extension to any computers your child has access to.
Samaritans are for anyone who’s struggling to cope or who needs someone to listen without judgement or pressure.
The OLLIE Foundation provides advice on how to talk about suicide.
Useful APPS for CYP self-harm/suicide prevention (as recommended by Papyrus helpline users)
Stay Alive app is packed full of features with a mini safety plan, helpful resources, phone numbers, breathing techniques and strategies for staying safe from suicide.
Calm Harm is developed by a Clinical Psychologist and is designed to help people to resist or manage the urge to self-harm. As with lots of apps, it is password protected making sure that all information can be kept private. It can help you to express feelings in a different way and provides safe alternatives to self-injury.
Mood Panda is an interactive mood diary. It enables users to update and track their moods, helping young people to understand what’s happening and what has an effect on their moods. It even has a feature to print out personal weekly and monthly mood history for use in therapy sessions or for self-care.
MoodGYM is an interactive program to help young people with low mood. Based on cognitive behaviour and interpersonal therapy, it consists of five modules which help to explore why you feel the way you do. The app helps you to recognise what makes you upset and helps you to change the way you think. It also features interpersonal and assertiveness training skills.
Voda.co is an LGBTQIA+ mental wellness app developed with leading NHS LGBTQIA+ psychotherapists: it provides self-guided digital therapy programmes derived from mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Pacifica: more than a meditation app was recommended by Papyrus helpline advisors for young people.