At some point in your job you may come across a young person at imminent risk of suicide.  Those at the highest risk for committing suicide in the near future have a specific PLAN to suicide, the MEANS to carry out the plan, a TIME SET for doing it, and an INTENTION to do it.  The more thought through and detailed his/her plan is the greater risk of suicide.

Imminent risk of suicide

  • Suicide attempt in progress OR
  • Has clear intent AND
  • Detailed plan and access to means AND
  • Immediate timeframe to carry out attempt

If faced with a young person at imminent risk of suicide or has taken action to harm oneself, seek immediate help by either calling emergency services or taking the person to hospital. 

Whilst waiting for emergency services

  • Reassure the young person and continue communication in a calm and respectful manner
  • Remain with them until emergency services arrive (ideally they are accompanied to hospital)
  • Provide first aid as required

Even if the harm taken is not life threatening, it is still important the young person is taken to hospital to have the injury examined and be seen by the Crisis Assessment and Treatment (CAT) team.  At each main hospital, there are CAT teams, which are comprised of mental healthcare professionals who help those experiencing serious psychological distress.  You can also contact the CAT team for further advice.

High risk of suicide

  • Has clear intentions
  • Detailed plan, may or may not have access to means
  • Identified timeframe to carry out attempt, but not necessarily imminent

Even if an attempt has not yet been made, if you cannot manage the person’s safety, you need to take the person to hospital. 

To help manage their safety, it is important to disable any plans of suicide.  This typically involves restricting access to means (for example removing medications, rope, knife).  It can also involve organising for them not to be left alone.

Practitioners should always be guided by organisational policy and procedures in responding to suicidality.