How Do I Talk To My Children About Suicide?

While discussing suicide can feel intimidating, it is an extremely important topic that bears talking about- especially with our children. Fortunately, there are numerous organizations that offer resources we can use to facilitate conversation and provide support for those who need it.

I have linked some here:

Making sure your children feel comfortable talking to an adult about their mental health is a protective factor. Here are some tips:

  • Check in with your children regularly and push further than “How are you?” Our automatic response is to say “good,” but what does “good” look like?
  • Normalize talking about feelings- both positive and negative.
  • Pay attention to changes in moods and behavior.
  • Remind your children that your job is to support them emotionally and that they will not get in trouble for sharing their feelings. Understandably, if your child discloses that they wanted to hurt themselves, our automatic response might be to say, “What? Why? You shouldn’t feel that way! Don’t think like that!” We mean well and are trying to convey to the child that we care. But we are unintentionally invalidating their feelings and projecting our feelings onto them. We need to acknowledge what they have said, “Okay, I hear you. Thank you for sharing that with me- I know that was hard. Let’s work through this together.”

If you have concerns that your child is contemplating suicide, there are several things you should do.

  • The first and most important thing to do is to make sure your child is safe and supervised.
  • Second, ask if they are considering suicide or want to die. There is a longstanding myth that asking someone if they are suicidal encourages suicidal thoughts or attempts. This is NOT true. Asking directly (and gently) opens the lines for clear communication and shows your child that talking about serious emotions is okay. This article from the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health dispels this myth and several others.
  • After checking in with your child, reach out for help from a mental health professional. This might mean calling a 24/7 crisis line (1-800-273-8255) or visiting an emergency room- if it is a weekend or after hours. During the day, you can use the options mentioned and contact your child’s doctor or therapist or reach out to your school counselor.

If you or someone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

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