How to Talk to Your Children About Suicide
As a parent, you know your child best. There may be a time when you sense something different and worrisome about your child’s behavior or someone tells you that your child has mentioned ending their life. Take these concerns seriously and have a conversation with your child. Disregard anyone saying you are overreacting, or your child just wants attention. Having the conversation may be scary, but it is important. Take a deep breath and collect your thoughts.
Are you unsure of the signs that someone may be considering suicide?
Check out this video from the Mayo Clinic where teens explaining common signs a child who is struggling may exhibit.
Ask your child the question directly: Are you thinking about suicide?
Ask the direct question- don't beat around the bush.
It may be scary, but it is important to appear calm when you talk to your child. Asking calmly and directly can show your child that you aren't afraid to have this conversation. You can say: "Are you thinking about suicide?" or "Have you ever thought about ending your life?" Rest assured that when asking directly, you will not put the idea of suicide into your child’s head.
Keep your tone conversational rather than confrontational.
While this is a serious conversation you don't want your child to feel like they are in trouble or that you are angry with them. Listen without judgment. Let them know you are concerned and care by saying something like, "Thank you for talking to me and telling me how you have been feeling." Validate their feelings and let them know that they are not alone.
Avoid trying to “fix” the problem.
While it may be an instinct to go right to problem-solving mode, know that one conversation isn’t going to “fix things.” Do more listening than talking and really try to hear what they are saying as you offer consistent support. Some examples of phrases to use are: "I am here for you," and "We're going to get through this together."
Utilize Crisis Resources
Reach out for help - Call 988, which is the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. You can call or text that number 24/7. You will be connected to trained crisis counselors who can provide support and resources for free. They will help you figure out the next step to help your child. Remember that you are not and do not have to be a mental help professional in this situation.
There are more resources out there for you.
The Trevor Project provides information and support to LGBTQ young people 24/7, all year round. Click here
Trans Lifeline provides trans peer support for our community that’s been divested from police since day one. Click here
Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States, anytime. Crisis Text Line is here for any crisis. Click here to learn more.
Other Suicide Related Resources:
US Department of Veteran Affairs - How to talk to a child about a suicide attempt in your family with links broken down by the age of the child.
The Alliance of Hope - Created by survivors for survivors to provide support to those who have survived the devastating loss by suicide.
Pepperdine -Navigating Family Life after a suicide attempt with information on how to prepare for a child's return home after a suicide attempt.
NAMI - fact sheet on warning signs of risk and danger.
Be the 1 to - The 5 action steps for communicating with someone who may be suicidal, supported by evidence in the field of suicide prevention.
Speaking of Suicide - 10 reasons teens avoid telling parents about suicidal thoughts.
Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide- Resources and training for parents, teens, educators, and clinicians.
PA Parent and Family Allience- PA Parent and Family Alliance have designed a one-of-a-kind, no-cost resource for parents whose children are experiencing mental health challenges because they believe that parents are the best advocates for their children. And, to be your child’s best advocate, you need tools, resources, and guidance. Visit their Talk About Suicide resource page.