Communication a key to youth suicide prevention

SUICIDE TALK LOGO 01 resized for social mediaChildren and teens face so many risks today, and parents do their best to help their kids navigate them. There’s one, however, that many parents don’t talk about with their kids: youth suicide.

Travis Freed, LMLP, Director of Crisis & Recovery Services at Family Service & Guidance Center, feels strongly that this difficult subject needs to be added to the list.

“Suicide poses a serious threat to kids and teens, just like alcohol and drugs,” he said. “Parents and kids need to have this discussion. Studies tell us that discussing suicide doesn’t put the idea in someone’s head. In fact, bringing the topic into the open makes it less scary and gives the child permission to talk about it.”

He suggested several tips for talking about suicide with your child.

  • Sit side-by-side instead of face-to-face.
  • Don’t insist on eye contact.
  • If you are worried your child may be suicidal, be direct with your language: “Are you thinking of taking your own life?”
  • Listen! Sometimes people talk too much when they are nervous or uncomfortable.
  • Tell your child it’s normal to have scary thoughts but they don’t have to act on them.
  • Don’t say things like, “Tomorrow’s a new day.” It invalidates any struggles your child might be going through.
  • If you are concerned that your child is imminently suicidal, don’t leave them alone. Seek help as soon as possible.
  • If you or someone you know is suicidal, it is always okay to call 9-1-1 for immediate assistance.

Kids who are struggling with suicidal thoughts and their families don’t have to go it alone. There are resources that can help them navigate a difficult situation.

  • Family Service & Guidance Center: 785.232.5005. If a child is experiencing a mental health emergency and is in danger of hurting themselves or others, FSGC is here to help 24/7/365.
  • National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988. Anyone experiencing mental health related distress – be it thoughts of suicide, substance use crisis or any kind of emotional distress – can call or text 988 to be connected to compassionate, accessible care and support.

Freed assured parents that they don't need to have the perfect discussion with their child; they just need to have one.

"The big takeaway is that having this discussion could save a child's life someday," Freed continued. "No matter how uncomfortable the talk may be, that fact makes it worth it."