The Best Way to Prevent Youth Suicide? Talk About It

Youth suicide has been on the rise for the past decade – and with the added stress of the coronavirus pandemic, suicide prevention is more important than ever.

Dr. Steven Rogers, medical director of Emergency Behavioral Health services at Connecticut Children’s, shares important tips and resources for parents.

Help and support is available.

First, every parent needs to know that they are not alone. Support and help is available for you, and you teen.

From anywhere, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255, or text “HOME” to 741741 to text with a crisis counselor. If you are reading this and feel that you or someone else is in immediate crisis, call 911.

Talk with your child about their mental health – openly, and regularly.

Check in with your child frequently about their mental and emotional well-being.

  • Here’s how to start the conversation. Make these check-ins a daily or weekly habit, so it becomes an open line of communication. Ask open-ended questions such as, “I’ve noticed you don’t seem happy. Can we talk about that?”
  • If you’re worried your child may be considering suicide, ask them directly: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Create a safe space for them to share their thoughts and feelings.
  • If your child’s mental or emotional condition may put them or others in danger, get help right away. See below for how.

> Related: Youth Depression and Anxiety: What Parents Should Look for, Ask and Do

If your child doesn’t want to talk, find other ways to stay connected.

Communication can be a challenge for some children, especially teens. But kids who feel more connected to their families and schools are at less risk of suicide.

  • Regularly schedule quality time with your child. Having family time to look forward to can be an important source of hope, connection and emotional support.
  • Ask for your child’s help selecting activities. Here are 40 ideas to get you started.

> Related: Is Your Teen Stressed, Sad or Angry? They May Be Feeling Grief

Keep your home safe.

Kids who are struggling with suicidal thoughts are likely to look for dangerous household items. Take steps to limit your child’s access to these items.

  • Ensure any guns are locked and ammunition locked/stored separately.
  • Safely store and lock away medications, alcohol and cleaning products.
  • This includes hand sanitizer: During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been growing reports of teens intentionally ingesting hand sanitizer, which can lead to alcohol poisoning and death.

Get help for your child.

Lots of kids can benefit from ongoing mental health support, even during the best of times. Consider asking your child’s primary care pediatrician or your insurance provider for help finding a therapist.

For crisis support, reach out to these resources.

  • If you feel your child is unsafe and actively suicidal, call 911.
  • For crisis support in Connecticut, including having a clinician come to your home, call 211.
  • From anywhere, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255, or text “HOME” to 741741 to text with a crisis counselor.

Spread the word.

In the past year, Connecticut Children’s Emergency Department identified more than 2,600 children, teens and young adults who were at risk of suicide, and connected them to the support they needed.

Please help us prevent suicide by sharing this information with others.

Related links

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