Talking to your teen about suicide

Recent headlines and startling statistics of young men and women taking their own lives have left many feeling concerned about the warning signs in their own child. As Leah Heaston, MSW, LCSW, LCAC, a licensed clinical social worker and manager of Parkview LaGrange Hospital’s LifeBridge Program, explains, prevention really starts when parents sit down for the tough conversation.

We all would like to believe that suicide is not relevant for our family or friends. Unfortunately, in Indiana, suicide is the second leading cause of death for those ages 15-34 and the third leading cause of death for those ages 10-14.  The sobering fact is that suicide can happen to any child in any family at any time, though there are things we can do to hinder our children from such drastic, tragic actions.

Contrary to myth, talking about suicide does not increase the risk of suicide and does not put the idea into someone’s head. Most of the time, talking about suicide allows an individual to open up and talk about their thoughts and feelings.  Talking with your child and, more importantly, listening to them, can provide hope. Sharing with another person can provide hope. 

5 Tips for Talking to Your Teen

  1. Timing and location.  Make sure that before you start the conversation, you have enough time to answer all questions and listen to your teen. Find a location that is private and has few distractions. Listen. Listen. Listen. Allow your teen to talk freely and give yourself plenty of time. Do not rush.
  2. Look for clues.  Listen for verbal cues that indicate risk. For example, “I don’t want to be here anymore,” or “I wish I was dead.”  Look for behavioral cues, such as giving away prized possessions, reoccurring depression or hopelessness and situational clues, such as loss of a relationship.
  3. Be direct.  Acknowledge that this is a difficult conversation for both you and your teen, but ask the question directly, “Are you thinking about suicide?”
  4. Be persistent.  It is a difficult and uncomfortable conversation. Your teen may be reluctant to talk about it and may feel there is no hope that things will get better. Reassure them that you want to listen to them, whatever they may have to say.
  5. Get support for both you and your teen. Resources are available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-273-TALK, as well as on their website, www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. You can also reach out through the Parkview Behavioral Health HelpLine, (260) 373-7500 or (800) 284-8439.

 

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