How to Talk to Youth About Suicide Prevention

It is devastating to entire communities when a young person dies by suicide. Unfortunately, suicide among youth is a serious and growing health crisis. It is now the second leading cause of death for children ages 10-14 and for teens and young adults ages 15-24. When a young person dies by suicide, communities experience a range of emotions including helplessness, hopelessness, fear, anxiety, anger and sadness. As a caregiver or parent, it can be hard to know how to talk to youth about the death of a young person they know, especially when trying to manage your own fear for your child’s safety and well-being.

Here are some resources and tips about how to talk with children about youth who die by suicide.

  • Start the conversation: talk honestly with your child about what happened. Not talking can make what happened seem more threatening in your child’s mind. It may also suggest that what happened is too horrible to speak about or that you do not know what happened
  • Begin by asking what your child already knows or has heard about what happened
  • Gently correct inaccurate information or misconceptions your child has by providing correct information in simple, clear, age-appropriate language
  • Encourage your child to ask questions and answer those questions directly
  • Limit media exposure
  • Encourage parents to share their feelings about what happened with their child at a level they can understand. Feelings may include worry and sadness. Encourage parents to also share ways to cope with these feelings with their child
  • Be patient. In times of stress, children may have problems with behavior, attention, and concentration. They will likely need extra patience, care and love from parents and caregivers
  • Seek extra help. If you are worried about your child’s reaction to what happened, you can always seek support and consultation from your pediatrician, family physician, and community mental health center

References:

  1. AACAP Suicide Resource Center
  2. Talking to Children About Mass Violence