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Talking To Your Child About Suicide

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Moore Public Schools' Mental Health Therapists work to normalize and promote the importance of mental health for our students, teachers, parents, and community at large. We empower students to overcome challenges both past and present in order to foster student success. Our program encourages health and wellness, strengthening families, reducing isolation, and building a sense of connection and community. 

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Talking to Your Kids About Suicide

Every parent would like to believe that suicide is not relevant to them or their family and friends. Unfortunately, it is relevant for us all. It is the 2nd leading cause of death in youth, ages 10-24 years, in the United States and Oklahoma. National surveys tell us 1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9–12) have seriously considered suicide in the past year. So how do you deal with this reality? You can talk to your child and learn to recognize and respond to warning signs.

Be honest. If this is a hard subject for you to talk about, admit it! By acknowledging your discomfort, you give your child permission to acknowledge his/her discomfort, too.

Ask for your child’s response. Be direct! “What do you think about suicide?”; “Is it something that any of your friends talk about?”; “Have you ever thought about it?”

Listen to what your child has to say. You’ve asked the questions, so simply consider your child’s answers. If you hear something that worries you, be honest about that too.

Don’t overreact or under react. Overreaction will close off any future communication on the subject. Under reacting, especially in relation to suicide, is often just a way to make ourselves feel better. ANY thoughts or talk of suicide (“I felt that way a while ago but don’t any more”) should ALWAYS be revisited. Remember that suicide is an attempt to solve a problem that seems impossible to solve in any other way. Ask about the problem that created the suicidal thoughts. This can make it easier to bring up again in the future.

Leaders in the suicide prevention field agree that the following warning signs indicate a young person may be at risk for suicide

• Talking about or making plans for suicide

• Expressing hopelessness about the future

• Displaying severe/overwhelming emotional pain or distress

• Showing worrisome behavioral cues or marked changes in behavior, particularly in the presence of the warning signs above. Specifically, this includes significant:

  • Withdrawal from or change in social connections or situations
  • Changes in sleep (increased or decreased)
  • Anger or hostility that seems out of character or out of context
  • Recent increased agitation or irritability.

If you notice any of these warning signs, you can help

  • Express your concern about what you are observing in their behavior.
  • Ask directly about suicide. Listen and reassure.
  • DO take suicidal threats seriously. We can never be certain that a child is just talking, and it is wise to never ignore these statements. As a general rule, it is better to be over cautious when suicide is mentioned.
  • Keep them safe. Remove access to the means to carry out a suicide. If your child is at immediate risk, please take your child to the nearest emergency room or call 911.