Talking about teen suicide
In her May post, 10 Reasons Teens Avoid Telling Parents About Suicidal Thoughts, Stacey Freedenthal, PhD, LCSW, notes that the biggest reason she hears why teens don’t talk to their parents about their suicidal thoughts is their perception that their parents would “freak out.”
The idea that a child is struggling with these thoughts can create a number of responses from parents or other family members, and understandably so. However, most parents aren’t prepared for this kind of conversation. And unfortunately, as Ms. Freedenthal outlines in her article, some of the responses are not helpful for a child or adolescent who expresses thoughts about harming themselves.
So what should a parent do?
First, be aware of the warning signs. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry provides a helpful resource called Facts for Families about Teen Suicide. If there is a concern about a child, note some of the signs outlined in this and other documents. These include outward signs and well as verbal cues.
Next, be prepared to talk. Or more importantly, be prepared to listen.
Effectively listening to your child is helpful. Keep in mind, too, depression and suicidal feelings are treatable mental disorders. But it begins with a conversation.
For a parent, family member or friend worried about whether a child or teen is considering suicide, it’s essential to learn more about the warning signs. There are many excellent resources available with important information. Here are resources from the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics about risk factors and preventing teen suicide. Click on this link to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center for more information. You can also watch this video from a presentation at Clarity Child Guidance Center. Stay informed and when needed, seek help.