Youth Suicide: What A Parent Needs To Know


What Parents, Adults Can Do To Help

Look for Danger Signs of Suicide

  • Previous suicide attempts
  • The verbalizing of suicide threats
  • The giving away of prized personal possessions
  • The collection and discussion of information on suicide methods
  • The expression of hopelessness, helplessness, and anger at oneself or the world
  • Themes of death or depression evident in conversation, written expressions, reading selections, or artwork
  • Statements or suggestions that the speaker would not be missed if he or she were gone
  • The scratching or marking of the body, or other self-destructive acts
  • Recent loss of a friend or a family member (or even a pet) through death or suicide; other losses (for example, loss of a parent resulting from divorce)
  • Acute personality changes, unusual withdrawal, aggressiveness, or moodiness, or new involvement in high-risk activities
  • Sudden dramatic decline or improvement in academic performance, chronic truancy or tardiness, or running away
  • Physical symptoms such as eating disturbances, sleeplessness or excessive sleeping, chronic headaches or stomachaches, menstrual irregularities, apathetic appearance
  • Use or increased use of substances

Note: Look for sudden changes in behavior that are significant, last for a long time, and are apparent in all or most areas of his or her life (pervasive).

When a child talks of suicide you should …

LISTEN:

  • Encourage the child to talk to you or to some other trusted person.
  • Listen to the child's feelings. Don't give advice or feel obligated to find simple solutions. Try to imagine how you would feel in the child's place.

BE HONEST:

  • If the child's words or actions scare you, tell him or her. If you're worried or don't know what to do, say so. Don't be a cheerful phony.

SHARE FEELINGS:

  • At times everyone feels sad, hurt, or hopeless. You know what that's like; share your feelings. Let the child know he or she is not alone.

GET HELP:

  • Professional help is crucial when something as serious as suicide is considered.
  • Help may be found at a suicide prevention and crisis center, local mental health association, or through clergy.
  • Become familiar with the suicide prevention program at the child's school. Contact the appropriate person(s) at the school.

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