- Often talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide
- Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
- Expressions of having no reason for living; no sense of purpose in life; saying things like "It would be better if I wasn't here" or "I want out."
- Increased alcohol and/or drug misuse
- Withdrawal from friends, family and community
- Reckless behavior or more risky activities, seemingly without thinking
- Dramatic mood changes
- Talking about feeling trapped or being a burden to others
If you notice any of these behaviors, talk with your child, seek help and restrict access to methods that are commonly used for self-harm or suicide. If your child is already seeing a mental health professional, keep appointments and communicate your concerns.
It’s OK to talk about it
It is important to be aware that talking to your child about suicide does not initiate suicidal thinking or increase the likelihood of suicidal behavior. Talking about suicide can open communication, granting your child permission to share their thoughts and ask questions about suicide – both in that moment and in the future.
There are many ways to talk to your child in an effective way about their mental health and suicide. Consider the following tips:
- If your child brings up the topic of suicide, don’t shy away from it. Ask open-ended questions about their feelings, thoughts, and beliefs.
- Try to respond in a non-judgmental way to foster open communication.
- Stay calm. A strong emotional reaction can end a conversation quickly.
- Ask questions and repeat back what is said. Feeling heard can help build trust and promote deeper understanding.
- Answer questions if you can. If you don’t know an answer, it’s OK to say, “I need to think about that.”
- Acknowledge that talking about suicide is difficult. Praise your child for talking about a hard topic. This can make it easy to return to the conversation in the future.
If you and your child need help with this conversation, you can reach out to a mental health professional for assistance. Additional help can found at these resources:
Children’s Mercy’s Talking With Teens About Suicide
healthychildren.org: How to Communicate With and Listen to Your Teen
Johnson County’s Suicide Prevention Coalition
Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide: Talking to Your Kid About Suicide