Few parents are unfazed by the suicide conversation, but the potential consequences of not having it are unthinkable. It’s important for parents to know that there is no evidence that talking about suicide with a teen encourages suicidal thoughts. Rather, connecting with your teen on this topic demonstrates that you are open to discussing a very emotional subject and can be available to them in the future if help is needed.
How to Handle the Discussion
It’s important for parents to manage their emotions during a discussion about suicide. Here are some things to remember:
Acknowledge your discomfort. By admitting that suicide is a difficult subject to talk about, you give your teen permission to acknowledge their discomfort too.
Encourage communication. If you are worried about possible suicide risk, do not be afraid to ask your teen directly if they are thinking of suicide or self-harm. Avoid overreacting to the answer or you could endanger future communication.
Offer reassurance. Help your teen normalize what they are experiencing. If your teen admits to thoughts or talk of suicide, try to minimize any shame they may feel.
Work together to find solutions. Do not try to recommend a solution to your teen’s distress. Instead, talk about what could be done to help. Call your pediatrician or schedule teen or family therapy with a licensed mental health professional.
Watch for warning signs. Regardless of what your teen says, watch for key signs of possible suicide risk. These include feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, withdrawal from people or activities they enjoy, using alcohol or drugs, and changes in sleep patterns, eating habits, personality or behavior.
Teens who are expressing thoughts of suicide or who have made a suicide attempt should be immediately evaluated. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (800-273-8255).
Schedule Counseling Services Today
If you believe you or your teen would benefit from counseling services, please schedule an appointment at Sound Mind Therapy. Call us at (314) 499-9144 or complete our online appointment request form. We serve residents of Creve Coeur, MO, and other suburbs of St. Louis.