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How to Talk to Your Kids About Suicide: New Study Says it May Make Them Less Likely to Consider It!

This year alone, 1,600 teenagers aged 15 to 19 will die from committing suicide. Suicide among kids, once a rarity, is now a growing concern in America, and it appears that one of the best ways to keep your kids from doing it is to be a nosy parent.

If your child seems troubled, talking to them about how they're feeling is one of the best ways to help.

In other words, simply talking to your kids about suicide may make them less likely to consider it, according to a study in the April 2005 Journal of the American Medical Association. This is contrary to a popular belief that talking to kids about suicide will only implant the idea in their heads.

Nowadays, kids already know about suicide-and yearly over 3 million kids between the ages of 15 and 19 seriously think about suicide.

1.7 million kids in this age group will attempt to commit suicide and over half of them will be hurt seriously enough to need medical attention.

In the study, over 2,300 high school students took part in a two-part questionnaire. Half the students were asked about suicide only in the second part of the survey, while the other half were asked about suicide in both survey portions. Although about half of the kids said they'd had suicidal thoughts, those who were asked about it twice reported fewer thoughts about suicide in the second survey.

Signs A Child May be Thinking of Suicide

  • Talk about suicide, dea

    th or dying

  • Symptoms of depression (fatigue, change in appetite and weight, poor performance in school, feelings of guilt or hopelessness)

  • Changes in behavior, appetite and sleep

  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities

  • Drug use

  • Engaging in risky behavior

  • Giving away possessions and making arrangements to "take care of unfinished business"

  • Suicide notes

  • Inability to concentrate or think clearly

Said Dr. Madelyn Gould, the author of the study and a researcher at the New York Psychiatric Institute, "The findings suggest that asking about suicidal behavior may have been beneficial to students with depression symptoms or previous suicide attempts."

Signs of Suicide in Kids

Over 90 percent of kids who commit suicide suffer from a mental illness, usually depression (95 percent of the time), according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Further, about one-third of these kids use drugs or alcohol. Anxiety, rage and desperation can also increase a child's risk of attempting suicide, says the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

What's the best way to prevent suicide in kids?

Recognizing and getting help for mental illness early on. As a parent, asking a troubled child about suicide may give them the opening to talk about their problem, while not asking may give them the impression that no one cares. It's important to watch for signs of depression in kids and talk to them about it right away if you notice any changes in their mood/behavior.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Depression and Suicide

  • First, let your child know that you love him/her and that he/she is important to you

  • Tell him you're concerned about how he's feeling and want him to know he can talk to you about anything

  • Ask him directly if he's ever thought of killing himself. (Don't say, "Why are you sad?" as the child may not know and may become frustrated)

  • Listen to his feelings and concerns

  • Tell him that you will help him or "we'll work on this together"

If your child is depressed, don't be afraid to ask him directly: "Have you ever thought about hurting yourself?"

  • Let him know that it's OK to feel sad sometimes, that you, too, feel sad at times

  • Suggest meeting with a professional counselor, either on his own or with you, to help him feel better. The National Hopeline Network can help you to find a crisis center in your area

  • In the event that someone you know is considering suicide and needs immediate help, call The National Hopeline Network at 1-800-SUICIDE.

    This important hotline provides access to trained telephone counselors 24 hours a day, every day of the week.

Recommended Reading

How to Detect Potentially Violent People in the Workplace

Inhalants: The Deadly Dangers to Children and Adults of Accidental and Intentional Abuse

Chicago Sun Times April 6, 2005 April 7, 2005

Talking With Your School-Age Child About Depression Depression Community

The National Association of School Psychologists

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