Dear Ask A Therapist, How do I talk to my child about suicide? Dear parent, Talking about suicide can be challenging, but because it has become the leading cause of death among Colorado young people …
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Dear Ask A Therapist,
How do I talk to my child about suicide?
Talking about suicide can be challenging, but because it has become the leading cause of death among Colorado young people between 10 to 24 years of age, it is a must.
Suicide happens, and it does not discriminate between age, gender, sexual orientation, economic status or ethnicity. Talking to our children about suicide needs to be as normal as talking to them about texting and driving, drugs and alcohol, and brushing their teeth.
The conversation should not wait until it is prompted by your child but be a part of everyday life. Contrary to belief, talking about suicide does not put the idea in someone’s head. Talking about it can actually open up the lines of communication and possibly help your child to be comfortable bringing up again, if needed.
First, it is helpful if you pick a good time to talk — like while you are in the car because it helps the adolescents to be more attentive.
Second, practice what you will say to them and how you will start the conversation. The more comfortable you feel talking about it the more comfortable they will feel.
Third, it is best to be honest about your own feelings with them. Our children respond better to us parents when they see our vulnerabilities.
Ask for their response by being direct. One example would be asking, “Have you ever thought about suicide?” Listen to what they have to say. Lastly, measure how you react. Over reacting will result in cutting off future conversations while under reacting is a way to just make ourselves (not our child) feel better.
The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide uses the acronym FACTS to help detect warning signs:
Feelings - Feelings that are different than the norm, like hopelessness, worthlessness, and anger.
Actions - Acting differently from your child’s norm such as withdrawing, risky behaviors, drug use.
Changes - Note changes in behaviors, in sleep and eating habits and in loss of interest in friends.
Threats - Talk of worthlessness, giving away possessions, obtaining pills/weapons, attempts.
Situations - Be wary of situations which could triggers suicidal behaviors like loss/death, break-ups, getting into trouble.
The Colorado Crisis Line is a toll-free phone number, 1-844-493-TALK (8255). Put the number in your phone, in their phone, on the fridge, in the car and anywhere else your child spends time.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, so watch for insightful outreach from Community Reach Center, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and others.
Laura Thompson is a school-based therapist in Westminster Public School who works at Westminster High School. Please submit your questions to Ask A Therapist at AskATherapist@CommunityReachCenter.org This column is for educational purposes only and opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.
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