Childline advice for helping children with suicidal thoughts
by Wendy Robinson - Childline service manager, London
Every one of us can feel down from time to time. At those times you might call a friend for a chat, get some exercise, watch your favourite film or do something you enjoy to cheer yourself up.
But imagine you feel down every day and the thought of telling your friends and family petrifies you. Imagine that you’ve lost interest in all the things you used to really enjoy doing and sometimes you struggle to even get out of bed.
When depression and anxiety continue for a long time it can spiral into suicidal thoughts. And these experiences don’t discriminate – suicidal thoughts can affect anyone of any age at any time. It might be hard to imagine that children and young people can feel so low that suicide feels like the only way out.
At Childline we know lots of young people feel this way.
Over the years the numbers of suicidal, depressed and anxious children contacting Childline has steadily increased.
In 2016/17 we heard from more suicidal children than ever before, with 22,456 young people telling us they were contemplating ending their lives.
One 16-year-old girl who contacted Childline said: “I'm terrified of what I might do. I want to be gone and have never felt this bad. Everything is getting to me and I just feel like being alive causes so much pain.
"I’m just a waste of space. I've told my parents how I feel but they just tell me off and say I'm being stupid and pathetic. They just don't understand and it makes me feel so alone.”
It’s always hopeful when a child calls us at Childline as so often they keep their feelings from parents, family and friends. Often young people don’t want to be a burden to those around them or they know that parents and family members have their own struggles.
So it can be hard for those close to them to know they are suffering and while all children are different there are some common signs to look out for:
- · becoming withdrawn from friends and family
- · persistent low mood
- · tearfulness and irritability
- · worries that stop them carrying out day to day tasks
- · sudden outbursts of anger
- · loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
- · problems eating or sleeping
If young people close to you seem to be struggling it’s really important to encourage them to talk to someone they trust so that together help can be found.
Talking is the key but if your child isn’t ready to voice their thoughts just yet, you could encourage them to write down what they want to say. Or suggest they call Childline to speak to a trained counsellor free and in confidence, or visit the website for advice www.childline.org.uk
Adults in need of support can contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.
It‘s important to remember that whilst thinking about suicide is relatively common, very few young people will actually attempt to take their own lives. However even having suicidal thoughts clearly shows someone is unhappy and needs help and support.
Let’s all do our best to be there for young people who are struggling so that they can get back on track for a happier and healthier future.