How To Talk To Your Kids About Suicide

Updated: Mar 6

Written by: Ryan Lennon


When you enrolled your child in a class at Industry Gymnastics, did you know you decreased your child’s risk of suicide?


It’s hard to think about suicide at an age when mentioning Simone Biles puts a spark in the eyes of a child that has been pouting since Saturday chores. But, now is the time to talk about it. Not just because we are honoring Suicide Prevention Month. The truth is: suicide is the second leading cause of death in children age 10 to 14 (National Institute for Health). And, from my personal experience as a suicide prevention lifeline counselor, I can tell you that our kids do want to talk.


Here’s how to talk to your kids about suicide:


  • Ask directly. When you make it ok to ask about suicide, you make it ok for them to share. Here’s a great resource for finding the right words. https://www.suicideispreventable.org/

  • Listen actively. Love fearlessly. Let your child experience their feelings without rushing to the comfort of a silver lining. Allow your child to tell you their thoughts without minimizing or judging. If you want to brush up on listening, try revisiting this holy grail of empathy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw

  • It’s ok to say you don’t know the answer. If your child needed open-heart surgery, it would be absurd for you to scrub in for surgery. If your child opens their heart to you, and it seems like they are in pain, your role is to listen and love and reach out for help.

  • Here are two worksheets I use to talk to kids about suicide. You can use which ever you feel is age-appropriate for your child:


Here’s how you know when to reach out for help:


Fantastic! You reached out to your kid and now you have the chance to help. A great way to understand suicide, is to think of it as a spectrum. You will know how to get help by assessing if your child is having suicidal thoughts, suicidal plans, or suicidal intent. Here is a wonderful explanation of the spectrum with excellent guidance on what to ask and what steps to take: https://www.suicideisdifferent.org/1-2-understanding-the-suicide-spectrum


Resources

  • The Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) is a wonderful resource. The counselors, like myself, are volunteers. We love and are passionate about what we do. We are here in a crisis. We are here for your child to call us. We are here for you to call us. I regularly talk to the whole family on speaker phone. You can call for resources. You can call for advice. You can call because something happened in the media. You can call because you lost someone to suicide.

Therapy:

  1. Seriously, if everyone in New York went to therapy, we’d be able to use the Queensborough Bridge.

  2. Therapy is not just for crises. If your child is in any emotional pain, this is the best thing you can do for them.

  3. Every insurance covers mental health care. You do not need a referral to see a mental health provider. Call the mental health phone number on the back of your insurance card for a list of therapists.

  4. Solace House is a wonderful Long Island City organization that offers free therapy: https://solacehouseinc.com/

Emergency Services:

  • DO NOT HESITATE to call 911 or take your child to the emergency room if anything harmful has already happened. Do not hesitate to use emergency service if it's under “intent”. If you are not sure, call The Lifeline, and we will tell you.

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