"How do I help my youth?"


Is What I’m Seeing Normal?

Everyone experiences different emotions at different times in their lives. Different people can experience the same event in different ways, with varying intensities. Emotions come and go on a daily basis and we usually are able to cope with the “ups” and “downs”. These “ups” and “downs” are normal.

Should I be worried?

When youth get stuck in the “downs” and their emotions become overwhelming and painful, they may be looking for a way out. Youth who feel desperate to escape their pain and see no other solutions may begin to have thoughts about killing themselves. If you suspect or know they are having these thoughts, this is something you should be talking to someone about immediately.  Do not make the mistake of assuming that such statements are part of normal adolescent “drama”—any statement that suggests that the youth wants to die or might attempt to kill him or herself should be taken seriously, because there might be a plan behind such a statement. Sometimes youth who are suicidal are able to cover up their pain enough that their parents or caregivers have no idea what they are going through. You have probably heard stories told by parents in the media who had no idea that their youth were suicidal or why. Communication with your youth is therefore critical to knowing if you should be worried about them and what they are saying, thinking, or feeling.


Youth who are having thoughts about suicide may be experiencing many feelings including:

  • Hopelessness
  • Loneliness and frustration
  • Any type of loss (loved one, relationship, pet)
  • Sadness and depression
  • Helplessness (feeling like nothing changes no matter what you do)
  • Isolation or lack of connection with others
  • Thoughts of ways to commit suicide
  • The world as a bad place
  • Worthlessness (feeling like you don’t matter)


If you know a youth who is experiencing thoughts of suicide and/or any one of the above warning signs, they may also be experiencing signs of [depression] and it is critical that they talk to someone they trust.As noted earlier, thoughts of suicide should be taken seriously and not overlooked, and you should not assume that they’re lying or overreacting. There are times when a youth contemplating or threatening suicide is actually seeking attention or a reaction, but it’s very important to give them the attention to solve the issues at hand and try to avoid thoughts from going down that path again.


Suicide might seem like the only answer from their perspective, but there are other ways to deal with their pain that they may not see. It’s important for them to understand that death is a permanent solution and there is no undoing that decision. Often times youths’ issues are difficult to deal with and although suicide may seem like the only solution for them, it’s important for them to know that there are other options and may be other solutions that haven’t been thought about or explored yet.


How Can I Help?

Although your youth might feel hopeless, their situation is not. Encouraging them to talk to you, someone they trust, or their doctor is often an effective way to prevent suicide. Many times youth are having these thoughts and haven’t disclosed it to anyone. So, having someone to talk to and reflect on their situation can give them a much different perspective. Things might even look different to them in a few days or weeks because situations and crises always change. As the adult, it’s easy to feel like you have to solve the problem and find a solution but sometimes this may not be what the youth is looking for; in fact, they may not want any help from you because they may feel they have come to a final decision. However, it’s important to be able to recognize some common red flags so that you’re able to step in and take action.



1.) Stay calm and be there to listen to the youth without being judgmental or critical

2.) Ask the youth if it is in fact suicide that they’re contemplating so that there’s no misunderstandings

3.) Reassure them that you are there for them and there are other options and others willing to help them

4.) Don’t leave the youth unattended especially if they are in an aggressive or distressed state

5.) Remove accessible items they may use to harm themselves (e. g. knives, ropes, pills, sharp objects)

6.) Develop a “safety plan”. This is a plan that may include people they can call or talk to (such as crisis lines), and strategies that can help them to cope with their intense feelings and thoughts


Remember that though this can be a terrifying time, you are not alone and there are professionals only a phone call away. Along with the professionals in the community you also have people at school (e.g. school social worker) that can help you and the youth during this difficult time.


If you feel like you aren’t able to get through to the youth, you can call a 24hr crisis line,  take your youth to your local hospital emergency room, or call 911 if you fear for their safety and they are refusing help. Remember that you are not alone in this and that help is only a phone call away.



Peel Children’s Centre Crisis Response: (416) 410-8615 (up to 18yrs old)

Peel Crisis Services: (905) 278-9036(over 18 yrs old)

Kid’s Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

LGBT Youth Line: 1-800-268-YOUTH


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