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Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for people aged between 15 and 19 years old, with evidence now suggesting that the pandemic saw a rise in suicidal thoughts and self-harm, both of which are significant risk factors for suicide.

Preventing youth suicide can be difficult, because people often don’t access mental health services or are unwilling to seek out professional help. However, a new study from the University of Birmingham has identified three key factors that could help prevent youth suicide and give helpline staff the resources they need to provide effective support.

These three factors are: Creating a safe space allows children and young people to discuss their feelings openly and honestly; making sure clear protocols are in place for understanding the suicide risk of callers; and securing the appropriate joined-up support and safeguarding services.

It was also found that having a better shared understanding of current challenges and practice can assist helplines in identifying examples of good practice, as well as revealing opportunities for improvement (such as through tailored training and resources).

Dr Maria Michail, associate professor at the Institute for Mental Health at the university, said: “Helplines are a common way for young people with suicidal experiences to seek help, but it is important to understand how helpline staff and volunteers identify, assess, and manage suicide risk among young people.

“Ensuring a good relationship and open dialogue with young people is key in establishing the risk of suicide. Frontline staff are well placed to assess and respond to suicide risk, but we must understand the challenges they face when responding to suicidal young people.

“Extra support is needed to ensure effective safeguarding and clear guidance must be in place as to how each helpline specifically handles suicide risk and what this means for frontline staff.”

Earlier this year, Office for National Statistics data found that suicide rates among those aged between 15 and 19 were on the rise, up by 35 per cent between 2020 and 2021.

Are you interested in bereavement research? Get in touch with Suicide Bereavement UK to find out more.