Preventing suicide and self-harm

Information and resources to help social workers to be vigilant and responsive to potential suicide risk.

Young people we work with often have a complex mix of issues, so it’s important we’re vigilant and responsive to potential suicide risk. A recent review identified two relatively distinct groups of young people at risk of committing suicide:

  • those with highly complex needs, with significant histories with us, who are identified as at risk
  • those who are not well known to us, have little history with us, but go on to commit suicide.

The Practice Centre outlines the various 'points' at which require an appropriate screen or assessment should be applied.

Safety and risk screen guidelines

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Suicide risk factors

Knowing the risk factors, triggers and indicators of self harm reminds us to be vigilant to this risk when assessing the safety of a young person. The practice centre outlines a list of risk factor, triggers and indicators to be aware of:

Suicide risk factors

Screening for suicide and Towards Wellbeing

It is critical that we look for, recognise and act on signals that a child or young person may be at risk of self harm, suicide, alcohol or drug abuse or psychological distress. The practice centre has information about sicide risk screening and assessment, including question prompts that can be asked directly to the young person:

Screening for suicide (PDF 288 KB)

Suicide Risk Tool - Question Prompts (DOC 50 KB)

Suicide Risk Assessment Tool: template (DOC 49 KB)

The Towards Wellbeing (TWB) suicide risk assessment and monitoring programme has proven effective in reducing the risk of suicide. Towards Wellbeing is a suite of practice tools (see above) and monitoring programme.

The TWB monitoring programme is delivered by Clinical Advisory Services Aotearoa (CASA) who employs TWB Clinical Advisors. These advisors:

  • provide specialist advice to frontline social workers
  • help write an individualised management plan and monitor the plan’s progress
  • help access service from other agencies, including mental health resources
  • focus on current safety, as well as reducing long term risk.

Contact the TWB programme: email or contact the TWB clinical advisor in your area.

Additional TWB information on the practice centre includes the TWB manual and key information for supervisors, including an outline of their role.

When suicide risk is identified

When suicide risk is identified, we need to work together with the young person, their whānau and other professionals to secure the immediate safety of the young person and then develop a robust plan to safely restore their wellbeing.

When suicide risk is identified includes:

  • Important considerations
  • Immediate points of action in the case of suicide risk
  • Other professionals who can help the child or young person
  • Consulation and communication concerning the child or young person at risk
  • Reviewing the child or young person's plan
  • Aspects of successful intervention