TALKING TO YOUR CHILD
Every parent would like to believe that suicide is not relevant to them or their family or their child. The unfortunate reality is that suicide can happen to any child at any time – 1 in 5 youth in Indiana have contemplated suicide.
Suicide is something you can and should talk about with your child. Contrary to belief, talking about suicide will not plant the idea in their head. It will actually open up communication about a topic that is often kept a secret.
If you believe your child is contemplating suicide or is exhibiting any of the warning signs of suicide, don’t wait to speak with them – taking action is always the best choice.
How to start the conversation
- Ask if you can talk with them alone in private.
- Ask questions to get them to open up.
- “I have been feeling concerned about you lately. How are you feeling?”
- “You haven’t been acting like yourself lately. Is everything okay?”
- “You seem really down. How are you doing?”
- Listen to their story and allow them to talk freely.
- Ask if they have thought about ending their life.
- “Are you thinking about suicide?”
- “Are you thinking about dying?”
- “Do you want to kill yourself?”
- “Have you thought about how or when you’d do it?”
- Express concern and care.
- “You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.”
- Have resources available and let them know you will assist them in getting help.
- “Have you thought about getting help?”
- “I know reaching out for help seems scary, but I will be here with you every step of the way.”
- You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
- You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
- I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
- When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold off for just one more day, hour, minute – whatever you can manage.
Do NOT say:
- You have so much to live for…
- You’re not going to attempt suicide, are you?
- Your suicide will hurt me and your family.
- Look on the bright side…
- Are you sure you’re really feeling that way?
If your child is reluctant to talk to you, don’t give up. Look for different ways to connect. And when talking to your child, remember: try your best to be yourself; listen to what your child is telling you; be sympathetic and offer hope.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline
If your child is experiencing a mental health crisis or medical emergency, call toll-free at 800.273.8255. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.
Connect with Community Behavioral Health Services
For a crisis evaluation or to schedule an appointment with a mental health professional in the Indianapolis area, call toll-free at 800.662.3445.
After talking to your child
After you’ve explained and normalized the mental health challenges, assure your child that it is treatable. Along with encouraging your teenager to get treatment, actively seek out resources and mental health professionals for your child. Explore options with your teenager; there are many different types of treatments and treatment combinations available. Identifying the treatment approaches that best fit your child may take time, but do not be discouraged! Be patient and know that once the right mental health professionals are identified, a world of difference will be made.
- Do not forget to listen to any input your child may have.
- Be persistent in encouraging your teenager to seek treatment and continue this support while they are receiving help.
- Ensure your child is getting the treatment they need.
- Maintain open communication with your child as they seek treatment, but this must be balanced with respecting their privacy. Ask your teen about their mental illness, how they are doing, and what skills they are learning in therapy. At the same time, respect that your child may not want to discuss everything they are talking about with their therapist or doctor.
- Trust that your child’s mental health professional will work to ensure the safety of your child.
- Never stop helping your teenager seek out necessary treatment, as your encouragement and your relationship with your child is imperative for their recovery process.