Talking to your Child About Suicide

A Parent’s Guide to Raising Awareness

*If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call 988, the Suicide and Crisis Hotline.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-24, with Colorado suicide rates being some of the highest in the country. Our kids are more and more frequently hearing of friends, classmates or family members dying by suicide more and unfortunately, the reality is impossible to ignore. As heavy as the reality of suicide is, it’s crucial to begin educating your child on the topic.

With September being Suicide Awareness Month, now is the opportune time to utilize community resources, reduce the stigma of mental health and raise awareness of this problem within your own family. There are multiple resources, events and opportunities to journey with your child in having these difficult yet necessary conversations about mental health and suicide awareness. Below are some ways to effectively and empathically talk to your child about suicide:

Have Individualized Conversations

There’s no right way to have this conversation with your child as each child is in different places with different experiences. For example, a younger child may have no context for suicide and will need a simpler explanation. For a child processing the grief of losing a friend from suicide, however, that conversation will need to be more in-depth and personalized. Every child is different and it’s important to gauge where they’re at every step along the way.

Be Honest

Sometimes children surprise us with their depth of understanding. While you may want to sugarcoat this conversation by watering down language, it’s important to be honest – you may be surprised by how much your child can take. Disclose to them what suicide is, factors that lead to it and how to look for warning signs, both in themselves and others. Remember that while these conversations may be uncomfortable, this knowledge is invaluable in the long run.

Leave Space for Questions

As mentioned above, your child may surprise you with their level of understanding and curiosity. Don’t leave the conversation open ended but instead create the space for your child to ask questions. Having their questions opened honestly will bring more peace and clarity into their mind; providing them this clarity through understanding is one of the best ways you can support them.

Provide Resources

Do your own research on resources you and your family can utilize to learn more about suicide awareness and how to support themselves and others. The first resource to know about is 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Just like educating your children to call 911 when there’s an emergency, 988 is just as important for your children to know in case of a mental health emergency. The CDC also has ample resources for education and support.

Be Available

Suicide is more prevalent in our daily lives than ever before. Our children are faced with its heartbreaking presence more than we ever were. And whether your child is dealing with their own mental health issues, experiencing the grief of a suicide or simply learning more, there’s a lot for them to process. As a parent, your presence matters more than ever. Create a safe space for them to process the emotions that are coming up, even when you don’t have the answers (and you usually won’t).

Although it’s heavy, educating your children about suicide awareness is a powerful way to equip them with increased knowledge and empathy. The world is collectively navigating the uncharted waters of ever-increasing suicide rates and while you won’t have all the answers, your child will need your presence. Remind them constantly how loved, supported and seen they are. That their presence matters. Your support will make these conversations a little less scary. 

If your family needs help in navigating these conversations, call Decade2Connect today. We are available to help you find the right language to use, as well as support your whole family in hope and healing.

Our Intensive Outpatient Program is in-network with United!