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Updated : August 1, 2022 4 mins read

Suicidal thoughts | Support for families and carers

Updated : August 1, 2022 4 mins read

Article Suicidal thoughts

If you’re worried that your child is experiencing suicidal thoughts, there are some ways that you can support them to get the help they need.

If you feel you’re child is at immediate risk of hurting themselves call 999 or take them to A&E

Many parents feel guilt or blame when they find out their child is having suicidal thoughts. It can be hard to hear your child talk about ending their own life.

It’s important to recognise that there are lots of factors that lead to someone having suicidal thoughts – some of which as a parent you have no control over.

Signs your child might be having suicidal thoughts

It can be hard to know what is going on in your child’s mind. Some young people will be open about how they are feeling and if they are having thoughts about death. Others can keep these thoughts to themselves and you might have a suspicion or feeling that something is going on.

Any suspicion or disclosure of suicidal thoughts should be taken seriously.

Signs that your child might be having suicidal thoughts:

  • They might be talking, drawing or role playing death or have a fascination about dying
  • Being withdrawn or isolated from their friends
  • Talking about being worthless, hopeless or feeling they’re not good enough
  • Losing interest in daily life or activities they would normally enjoy
  • Change in behaviour; this could be a drop in school performance or more reckless and risk taking behaviours
  • Low in mood or mood swings
  • Starting or increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Appear to be agitated or angry
  • They say statements like ‘I wish I wasn’t here’ or ‘I can’t go on like this’
  • Thinking that people would be better off without them
  • Starting or increasing in self harming to cope

This list is not exhaustive, you might not recognise these signs in your child but still be worried they are having suicidal thoughts. Don’t ignore your instincts that your child might be struggling.

How to talk to your child about suicidal thoughts

Talking about suicide will not put suicidal thoughts in your child’s mind.

Research tells us that if your child is not having thoughts about dying then asking them will not trigger suicidal thoughts.

If they are experiencing suicidal thoughts, asking them might be the difference between them getting help or not. Many people say that having someone ask the question feels like permission to talk about what was troubling them.

There is no right or wrong way to start a conversation about suicidal thoughts, you’re in the best position to know how to approach your child.

You may want to be direct and ask them “Are you having thoughts about suicide”

You might prefer to let them come forward with what they are thinking “I’ve noticed that ___ I’m worried about you. Is there anything you’d like to talk about?”

Things to remember when talking to your child about suicidal thoughts:

  • Take what they say seriously
  • Listen to what they have to say
  • Empathise with them, even if you don’t understand why they feel the way they do
  • Try to find out the extent of their thoughts.
    Have they made a plan?
    Have they researched how they will do it?
    Do they see themselves in the future?
    If you feel they are immediate at risk of trying to hurt themselves call 999 or go to A&E
  • Reassure them. Tell them that you love them and want to help them get support

Getting help for your child

If your child has made a suicide attempt call 999 for an ambulance

If you are concerned that your child is going to make a suicide attempt call 999 or take them to A&E

If you don’t think your child is in immediate danger or after having a conversation with your child about suicidal thoughts, you should contact services to find out what help you can get them.

You can call your GP (NHS 24 out of hours) or find out more about getting professional mental health help.

Charities and helplines


Prevention of youth suicide. Has helplines open for both young people and those worried about a young person at risk of suicide


Scotland’s Mental Health

Get Help now

If you are concerned about your mental health, or if you have found yourself feeling concerned about someone else, you can:

Call 111 – NHS 24

Call 116 123 – The Samaritans

Call 0800 83 85 87 – Breathing Space

Text: ‘YM’ to 85258 – Young Minds crisis chat

If you think you are in danger of hurting yourself or other people, you should call 999 or present to your local A&E department.