Suicide is a topic many people don’t want to discuss, but national suicide rates are at their highest level in 20 years.
It’s the second leading cause of death among young people age 10 to 24.
It’s important for families and communities to recognize warning signs of suicide and to help those at risk seek help.
Madison Scott is a clinical therapist with Behavioral Health Services of Arkansas.
This is a topic parents really need to discuss with their children and teenagers, right?
• It absolutely is.
• The majority of people who commit suicide have a mental health condition.
• But, mental health conditions of some kind are present in almost every family – somewhere and those conditions are hereditary.
• But, there are other risk factors that can prompt suicide.
• Some of those include being a victim of bullying or abuse, experiencing a tragedy, substance abuse – and others.
• Children and teenagers often don’t share their personal struggles with parents, so it’s important that parents are proactive in having this discussion.
You work with teenagers every day. How can parents of children of all ages best talk to their kids about suicide?
• First of all, talking about suicide doesn’t increase the chance that someone will contemplate suicide. So, parents shouldn’t have that concern.
• We don’t recommend talking about suicide with children who are younger than 8 or so, unless they ask you questions about it.
• When answering young children, it’s best to keep your answers short and broad such as, “that person had a disease and was dealing with some very tough problems and they died.”
• It’s important that parents don’t try to over-explain suicide to younger children.
• Parents should ask their child what they have heard about suicide, to open the door for a broader response.
• A natural ‘next’ question is whether their friends have ever talked about suicide, or if anyone they know (including them) has contemplated suicide.
• Pre-teen years are tough because kids are going through hormonal changes anyway.
• It’s important to note that most suicides are the result of mental illness of some sort, but that other stressors can also lead to suicide.
• And, that there is help for teenagers who are going through a tough time – regardless of whether they are thinking of suicide.
• Young people need to know they have a support system.
• It’s important to check-in with them regarding this topic every now and then.
• Teenagers need to know that every family has a loved one with a mental health condition and that there is treatment for it.
• But, if that condition becomes unmanageable and there is talk of suicide – it’s time for their friends or family to seek immediate help.
What are some warning signs that someone may be considering suicide?
Warning signs are different for everyone and age also plays a factor. But…
• Many people are depressed, have no self-esteem or think no one cares about them.
• They may withdraw from family and friends.
• Or, they may be aggressive or have mood swings.
• There may be drastic changes in eating or sleeping habits.
• Or they may give away possessions that have always been important to them.
• If any of those signs occur, it’s important to get help from a behavioral health counselor.
• Behavioral Health Services of Arkansas and Youth Home employ therapists and counselors who work with families, children, adults and seniors on a broad range of mental health conditions.
Where can we find more information on those resources?
Behavioral Health Services of Arkansas
There is also a Suicide Hotline you can call for help for yourself or a friend. It’s 1-800-273-TALK. Or you can TEXT for help at 741-741.