Let’s Talk About It: Suicide Awareness and Prevention

National Suicide Prevention (800) 273-8255

Strong Hearts Native Lifeline (844) 762-8483

What is suicide and suicidal ideation?

Suicide is the intentional and deliberate taking of one’s own life.

Suicidal ideation refers to thoughts of taking one’s life, engaging in self harm or thoughts of self harm, obsession with death and morbidity, or making light of one’s own death for the purpose of disguising one’s intention to attempt suicide.

Warning signs

What are some things I should look for:

  • Access to a gun is the single highest risk factor for suicide
  • Anxious behavior
  • Sleep changes and disturbances
  • Rage
  • Social isolation and withdrawal
  • Mood swings
  • Reckless behavior
  • Feelings of hopelessness, trapped, being a burden
  • Worsening substance abuse/recent relapse
  • Talking/”joking” about own death, suicide, wanting to sleep forever

what raises chances of suicide attempt?

FACTORS THAT INCREASE RISK:

  • DEPRESSION
  • MOOD DISORDERS (BIPOLAR)
  • SEXUAL ORIENTATION (LGBTQ)
  • SCHIZOPHRENIA
  • SERIOUS MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS
  • ABUSE
  • PERSONAL LOSS
  • CONFLICTS
  • FAMILY HISTORY
  • WORK STRESS
  • IMPULSIVENESS

How do I discuss suicide with my child?

Whether you are someone you know may be at risk for suicide, it is important to understand how to discuss the topic of suicide with children. Children are vulnerable to suicide and rates among children and adolescents have risen each year since 1999 according to American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric Association.

Suicide in children is a real and serious discuss, but many parents fear that by discussing suicide or thoughts of self harm it will incite or encourage it by suggestion. As understandable as this fear is, research does not support this. Suicide attempts are often connected to feelings of worthlessness, lack of connection, or a feeling that they are a problem or burden to those around them. Discussing suicide and bringing it up can actually lead to an increased sense of support and care, thus decreasing and preventing risk.

reasons to talk about suicide

  • Be Open – this can help decrease the stigma associated with mental illness
  • Genetic – Mental illness runs in families
  • Suicide impacts everyone indirectly

BY AGE

Preschool – Kindergarten: B Is For Basic

With young kids, it is important to not get too complicated. This will lead to confusion and fear that is unnecessary.

Tips:

  • Allow the child to lead the conversation
  • If the child asks, answer their question with simple responses

Example:

Child: Where’s Uncle Bobby?

Parent: He died and it is sad. He was sick and we didn’t know.

Kids 7- 10: Minimal Truth

Research shows that by the age of 10 children understand the concept of death and that once someone dies they will not come back.

Tips:

  • Give concise and specific answers
  • Allow the child to follow up if needed
  • Avoid getting to complicated

Example:

Parent’s answer: Uncle bobby suffered with something called depression in his life. It made him very sad a lot. I wish he had gotten help.

11- 14: SPECIFIC SAVES LIVES

With kids in this age group, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics it is important to be specific. Be specific about the warning signs of suicide, and what it is.

  • Discuss what your child is thinking, experiencing, and feeling on a regular basis
  • Allow your child to lead the discussion and be open to listening
  • Ask them if they are feeling okay or if they want to talk about anything often

Ask them what they have heard, read, or seen. This way you can gauge what their current level of exposure and understanding is without adding too much too fast, or scaring them.

Something that may not be a surprise to many parents is that by the time a child reaches this age group children are dealing with complex emotions. School may not always provide a safe or constructive environment for kids to express themselves, or sort through events. It is important to involve yourself in this process.

High School: WHEN

In the context of teens, there is much more to discuss. Teens will have a friend, family member, or personal experience with mental illness so it is much more about giving them the tools to use when encountering it.

Tips:

  • Have hotlines written down and let your teen know where they are
  • Reassure your teen that mental illness is not something to be ashamed about, that it is not their fault, and that it is a good thing to ask for help
  • Ask them if they have someone they trust to confide in when difficult things happen or when they are feeling angry, sad, anxious or just…lousy
  • Be there for your teen. Spend time with them doing things that are enjoyable and fun. This reinforces the fact that they are loved and belong. It is also a great way of building confidence and making memories.

Adulting: Stay In Touch

Not every man or woman in their 20s can afford or decides to attend college. During this period of life for young adults there are several important stages that are occurring.

The brain of a person passing from teenage adolescents to their twenties is solidifying executive functioning. These are the areas of the brain that are engaged in planning ahead, time management, and emotional processing.

In addition, this is a period of transition when people begin to build careers, have longer term relationships, create new friendships, try new things, move away from home, and live on one’s own for the first time.

On the other hand, it is also a time when people encounter rejection, obstacles, setbacks, loss, loneliness, self criticism, hormonal imbalances, lifestyle and dietary challenges, sleep disturbance, intimate partner violence, drugs and alcohol, racial violence, and police brutality within their own lives and the lives of those around them. Depending on one’s location, race, and economic situation these things may be present much earlier which changes things significantly and can increase the risk of suicide much earlier in a person’s life.

Tips:

  • Reach out by phone, text, email or in person to let them know you are there for them, that you care, and that if they ever need to get help that you would be there
  • Remind them of hotline numbers and suggest having them readily available
  • Ask what they do when they experience stress or emotional insecurity at work, school, or home to manage it

Prevention

Ask: Address it by stating in a non-critical way that you care about them, are worried, and are wondering if they are thinking about self harm or taking their own life

Safety: Address the presence of firearms or weapons, help them remove them from access and figure out how to safely secure them

Be there: Stay present with this person and listen to what they are experiencing, thinking, feeling, and wanting

Connect: Mental Health Services are available!

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-8255

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – 800-622-4357

Strong Hearts Native Hotline – 844-762-8483

Stay Connected: Check in with your loved one after the crisis has been addressed and mental health services have been obtained. Research shows that this is an important part of recovery!

Facts/Figure

Highest risk ages are people between 15 and 34 years of age. In addition, children in the LGBTQ community are 8 times more likely to to commit suicide than non-LGBTQ children which makes it especially important to address bullying, discrimination, and lack of family support. Native American and Alaskan Natives have the highest rates of suicide of any ethnicity with 12 people/100,000 commiting suicide each year in the Native community. 7% of women attempt suicide which is higher than men, but men use a more lethal method when they attempt which leads to more deaths by suicide than women.

Lastly, access to a firearm is the single biggest risk factor for suicide. Secure firearms, make them inaccessible, and teach all people in the household about gun safety and accidental death by guns.

Suicide is a serious medical emergency. Seek medical attention if you or someone you know is in crisis. Call 911 or a crisis hotline listed on this page immediately.

This website is not intended to diagnose, treat, or be used as an alternative to medical care. Although we are medical professionals striving for 100% accuracy of our content, all information is purely educational in nature and should be discussed with your healthcare provider.

RESOURCES

www.strongheartshelpline.org

Click the link for more information

Getting Help


Worsening addiction and/or recent relapse is an important factor in addressing suicide. If you or someone you know struggles with addiction or relapse call

(800) 662-4357 or 911

For more information, please check out the other pages with information of addiction, mental illness, and intimate partner violence for additional resources and help!


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