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Youth suicide is far too big and serious a topic to be covered in this short space, but it seems timely to list again some of the indicators to watch for.
• Appearing to be depressed. You pick a sense of hopelessness or helplessness. Perhaps there’s been some rejection, loss, humiliation or major disappointment. You’re hearing comments such as "why bother", "what’s the point", "it doesn’t matter", "it won’t be a problem for much longer" or "do whatever you like, I don’t care".
• Withdrawal from family and friends or social isolation by others.
• Abrupt changes in routines, eating habits, sleeping patterns and attitudes to favourite activities.
• Changes in school performance or attendance.
• A sudden onset of behavioural problems and antisocial behaviour, or drug or alcohol abuse to deaden the emotional pain.
• Talk of death and threats of suicide, or images or drawings of violent acts such as a gun to the head and hangings on bits of paper or in school folders.
• The recent suicide of someone close to them or with whom they identify. This can increase the risk.
• A sudden and inexplicable change in behaviour from seemingly depressed to being calm, happy and communicative, often coupled with giving away possessions, indicates the decision is likely to have been made. There’s a sense of relief, burdens have been lifted, the emotional pain will soon end and problems be resolved. The act is now not too far away.
Yet, despite all these signals, predicting suicide in individual cases is very difficult.
Most teenagers will give someone a clear indication of their intention a short time beforehand but that person mightn’t realise the significance, or take it seriously, or be uncertain whether they should say something to someone.
Listen carefully, take up opportunities to talk, consider what might be behind it all and make contact with your doctor, school counsellor or an appropriate agency.
Where to get help
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (Mon-Fri 1pm to 10pm. Sat-Sun 3pm-10pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Samaritans 0800 726 666
• If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.