Because suicide is the second-leading cause of death among teenagers, threatening phrases from your children (such as “I should just go kill myself”) should be taken seriously, even if you think your children are saying it just to get attention.
Here are some general ideas for how to deal with suicidal children.
- If you notice your children exhibiting some of the warning signs of suicide or hear them talk about killing themselves, talk with them immediately.
- Be direct and specific. Talking about suicide will not put the idea in their head.
- Ask questions to help you understand how they’re feeling.
Validate their feelings.
- Accept them instead of judging them.
- Assure them that you’ll be there for them.
- Keep your children safe. Remove all harmful substances or objects from the immediate area. If your children are in immediate danger, don’t leave them alone. Call 911 or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
- Once the immediate danger has passed, find ongoing help for your children, such as a mental health professional.
A more specific method for coping with suicidal children is an approach based on nonviolent resistance. Its purpose is to reduce the potential risk and the collective distress in a suicide threat situation. Some main points of the approach include the following:
- Parents simultaneously support the child and resist the threat.
- Parents initiate a “containment phase” that states they will be present in their child’s life and do anything they can to avoid their child’s suicide.
- Parents create connectedness by sharing, not hiding, the suicide crisis with individuals who have positive relationships with their child.
- Parents take steps to reduce negative feelings and power struggles during the crisis.
For a more in-depth look into how to cope with suicide threats with nonviolent resistance, read this article.
National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
Suicidal thoughts can affects anyone. The stigma surrounding suicide can make it difficult for people who are struggling to speak up. This month especially is a time to raise awareness and help people find the resources they need. Here are a few ideas on what you can do to participate:
About the Author
Dr. Gregory A. Hudnall is a former high school principal and associate superintendent with the Provo City School District. He has been involved with suicide prevention for the past thirty years. He is nationally sought after for his expertise in postvention.
Dr. Hudnall is the founder of Hope4Utah, a non-profit, community-based organization dedicated to suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. The school-based program, Hope Squad, has been responsible for over 5,000 students referred for help and over 1,000 hospitalized. The Hope Squad program is now in over 950 schools around the world.
For over fifteen years Dr. Hudnall has led a state-wide volunteer suicide crisis team that has responded to over fifty youth suicides.
Dr. Hudnall has presented at over 100 national and state conferences on suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. He also presents on bullying, connectedness, community collaboration, and school safety. Dr. Hudnall was invited to testify before the United States Surgeon General on suicide in Utah. He has presented to the U.S. Department of Health and at the national conferences of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Association of Suicidology. Dr. Hudnall was also invited to participate in a webinar on African Americans and suicide by the White House.
Under Greg’s direction, over 60,000 people nationwide have been trained in suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. He has presented across the United States and to many countries around the world on suicide prevention, including to the Minister of Education for Madrid, Spain.
Dr. Hudnall is considered one of the leading experts in community and school-based suicide
prevention, intervention and postvention. He lives by the mantra, “while it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire community to save one.”
To learn more about Dr. Hudnall, youth suicide prevention and HopeSquad, go to: https://hopesquad.com/.