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Posted on June 11th, 2018, 0 Comments

Talking to Your Teen about Suicide

After a tragedy such as the celebrity suicides that have been in the news recently, it can be a struggle for us parents to figure out what to say to our kids and what not to say. Some of us may worry that talking about suicide may put ideas in our teen’s head. But the research is clear that talking about suicide does not make someone suicidal. Plus your teen has almost certainly heard the news and not talking about it with them can send the message that you’re not open to discussing it with them.

Try This
Below are some ideas for talking with your teen about these tragedies in a way that can increase their safety and resiliency.

Start by being curious about what your teen already knows or thinks they know. Ask what they’ve heard. Most teens will have heard something and some teens may respond with, “I already know all about it.” But asking them to share with you what they know can be very enlightening. After listening to their response, calmly correct any misinformation if you can.

Ask what questions they have. Teens are likely to have questions and can often benefit from added information. So share any additional information you have, avoiding graphic details and speculation. Of course, teens have access to detailed information and rumors online, so it’s best to be aware of what’s out there and talk with them about what they might see or hear.

Put the news in context. Broaden the discussion from tragic news items to a larger conversation about how people cope with stress, disappointment, and other hardships. It can also be helpful to talk about the complicated factors that can contribute to someone committing suicide, including mental health issues.

Make sure they know who they can turn to if they’re in distress. One of the most valuable messages you can communicate to your teen is that if they have thoughts about harming themself, you and others who care about them will listen. Emphasize that no matter how hopeless or terrible a situation might feel, there are always options. Assure them that even if there is no quick solution to the problem, working together you can come up with options and figure out a plan.

Our teens are sometimes reluctant to confide in us, so it’s wise to make sure your teen knows there are other people they can talk with. Help your teen identify a few other caring adults, including relatives, family friends, or medical professionals, they can trust.

Finally, talk with them about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Let them know that they can call this number any time of the day or night to talk with a skilled person who will listen to them, understand how they are being affected by the problem, and provide support. The service is available to anyone for free, and all calls are confidential.

Bottom Line
We need to talk with our teens about suicide. Talking about it can help reduce the risk.

Selected Sources and Resources
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Parenting Teenagers: How to talk to your teen about suicide

What to Do if You’re Worried About Suicide: A parent’s guide to helping a child in distress

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