Suicide is a public health issue that concerns all of us. It is one of the reasons that many pediatricians get involved in pushing for stronger gun safety laws and teach parents to store any guns that they have locked, unloaded, with the ammunition locked elsewhere.
As you will learn, “reducing access to lethal means” is one of the first things you should do if your child is talking about suicide.
Is Your Child Talking About Suicide?
Although there are many warning signs of suicide, one is that a child or teen might simply starts talking about wanting to die.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), they might also:
- Talk about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
- Talk about great guilt or shame
- Talk about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
- Talk about feeling unbearable pain, both physical or emotional
- Talk about being a burden to others
- Talk or think about death often
And it is important to keep in mind that instead of actually ‘talking’ about any of this with you, a parent, your child might instead talk about it with their friends, text someone, or post messages on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or inside a chat room of one of the games they play.
What to Do If Your Child Is Talking About Suicide
So what do you do if your child is talking about suicide?
Get help as soon as possible.
“Asking someone about suicide is not harmful. There is a common myth that asking someone about suicide can put the idea into their head. This is not true. Several studies examining this concern have demonstrated that asking people about suicidal thoughts and behavior does not induce or increase such thoughts and experiences. In fact, asking someone directly, “Are you thinking of killing yourself,” can be the best way to identify someone at risk for suicide.”
Suicide in America: Frequently Asked Questions
While getting help might start with a call to your pediatrician, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always available at 1–800–273–TALK (8255). Call immediately to figure out the best way to help your child, before they have a chance to hurt themselves.
And know that help is available.
- Five Action Steps – How and Why the 5 Steps Can Help
- Taking Action for Families
- Frequently Asked Questions (and Questions to Ask!) about Referral to Mental Health Services
- Tips for Parents
Most importantly, don’t ignore or dismiss your child’s talk because you don’t believe them.
Talking to Your Kids About Suicide
What would your kids do if a friend texted them and said they were thinking of killing themselves? Would they come tell you?
What if their friend told them to keep it a secret?
What if they were thinking about suicide?
Since we know that talking about suicide is not harmful, is there any good reason to not talk to your kids about what to do in these situations?
Your kids should know that they can always come talk to you and:
- how to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1–800–273–TALK (8255), which is available 24 hours a day for anyone who needs help
- how to contact the crisis text line – text HOME to 741741, and text with a trained Crisis Counselor 24 hours a day
- what to do when a friend is talking about suicide
- about the Lean On Me anonymous peer support via text network
- about the Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth, including a hotline, chat and text help service
- about the Disaster Distress Helpline for “24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.” Anyone can call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
- how to report suicidal content on Facebook
- how to report suicidal content on Twitter
- how to report suicidal content on Instagram (tap “…” below the post and then tap “Report Inappropriate,” select “This Photo Puts People At Risk > Self-Harm”)
- how to report suicidal content on YouTube (click “More” and then highlight and click “Report” in the drop-down menu. Click “Harmful dangerous acts,” then “Suicide or self-injury” to trigger a review)
Again, talk to your kids so that they know not to ignore any warning signs, as one day, they might be in a position to save one of their friends.
What to Know About Talking to Your Kids About Suicide
Talking and asking about suicide is a good first step in getting someone who might hurt themselves help.
More on Talking to Your Kids About Suicide
- Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) Toolkit
- Suicide in America: Frequently Asked Questions
- Means Matter
- Supporting a child who is thinking of suicide
- Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents & Educators
- What’s the Harm in Asking About Suicidal Ideation?
- How Parents Can Help Prevent Suicide
- AAP – 10 Things Parents Can Do to Prevent Suicide
- Zero Suicide Toolkit
- Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools
- The Role of High School Teachers in Preventing Suicide
- The Youth Suicide Prevention School-Based Guide
- The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide
- When a Child’s Friend Attempts Suicide
- Promoting Individual, Family, and Community Connectedness to Prevent Suicidal Behavior
- Is your home suicide-proof?
- Patient Safety Plan Template
- MIT Students Use Their Coding Skills For Suicide Prevention
- R U There?
- How Do You Help Someone Who Is At Risk Of Suicide?
Last Updated on May 7, 2018 by Vincent Iannelli, MD