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talking to kids about suicide

Suicidal Thoughts Can Be a Touchy Subject for Both Parent AND Child

This can be a very touch subject that no parent ever wants to go through, but sometimes it’s something that can’t be ignored. This can be an incredibly uncomfortable topic for most people, especially for those who’ve lost someone special through it, but your own loved one may have these thoughts and talking to them can be very helpful.

The Statistics

The reality of teen suicide can be staggering and there are many factors leading up to a teen committing the act. Before you talk to your teen, you should know:

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10-24.
  • 77.9% of all suicides are male
  • Teen girls attempt suicide 3 times as often as teen boys
  • Guns are used in 51% of male teenager suicides
  • LGBT youth are 3 times as likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual teens
  • 1,668 teens (ages 13-18) committed suicide in 2014

When Should You Talk To Your Teen About Suicide

There are clear times when you should talk to your teen about suicide, such as when you find them engaging in self-harm. But there are other times you should be addressing the topic as well.

  • Large life changes – When teens experience large and unhappy shifts in their lives (death of a loved one, parental divorce, break up), they may struggle to express their feelings and instead bottle up all their painful emotions.
  • Mental illness – Most teens who struggle with both mental illness and suicide idealization will not receive specialized mental health care. Those who deal with mood disorders like anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia are among the high-risk factors of suicide.
  • Substance abuse – 53% of teens who commit suicide abused alcohol, and 34.8% of teenage girls use drugs to commit suicide. If your teen is abusing substances, it should be a clear warning sign to you.

talking to kids about suicide

How To Open A Conversation On Suicide

Whether your teen is struggling with one of the above issues or outwardly fine, you should find a way to creatively have a discussion about this touchy subject of suicide. I understand it can be a difficult conversation to initiate, so I wanted to share how I’ve talked to my own children about it.

  • Utilize media – My oldest son asked my permission to watch “13 Reasons Why” and I allowed it on the condition we watch it together. At the end of an episode, we would discuss what happened from the funny (explaining cassette tapes) to how hurtful gossip can be. With the series being renewed, we plan on continuing our watching and discussion pattern.
  • touchy subject suicide

  • Talk one-on-one – If any of your children are struggling or you feel they could potentially have suicidal thoughts, it is unlikely they want to talk openly in front of others. I like to make sure I spend quality one-on-one time with each of my children regularly so we can talk about anything they would prefer not to air in front of the rest of the family.
  • Just ask – Sometimes there is no fancy way to bring up such a touchy subject, but you should always ask if you think your child is going through a very difficult time. Talking and letting them know you understand can go a long way.

teens and suicide

There is never an easy way to discuss the topic of suicide, but as parents, talking about it can be a key part in preventing teen suicide.

Tyler Jacobson

Tyler Jacobson

Tyler Jacobson is a father, husband, and writer, with experience as a content writer and outreach coordinator for HelpYourTeenNow. Tyler has offered honest advice and humor to struggling parents and teens. Tyler has researched and written on education problems, disorders, the world of social media, addiction, and pressing issues with raising a teen today. Follow Tyler on:
Twitter | Linkedin | Google +

8 comments

  • Definitely agree with most commenters that it’s a very tough discussion to have. However, there are many hard conversations to be had with kids. Better to have open discussion and try to make the effort that all important topics are covered!

  • I’m not sure if there’s a lot of psychotherapists for children. I think it would be helpful to have a group therapy with the parents or an individual session with the kid alone so that these negative thoughts would be curbed. Mental illness is something that should be worked on immediately, else it can be hazardous to life.

  • This is a tough subject. Especially when it hits home. My son’s biological mother committed suicide when he was 8 months old. I hope when we can discuss it in full detail he takes it well.

  • I really try to make an effort to make sure I keep an open dialogue with my daughter about everything. I wish that I could say that everything was fine then. But I realize that with divorce things can be difficult. So my daughter is seeing a therapist but I still try to be open with her so she can say whatever she feels whenever she feels.

  • I can sure relate to your post. My son was an addict from the age of 15 until he was 22. You’re right, suicidal thoughts were definitely something we were on the lookout for. There’s no easy way to bring it up, but attending many classes with him during his treatment, it became not as taboo for our family. Thanks for keeping the conversation going. x

  • Gosh, this is one hard conversation! I liked your idea of watching a program and talking about it to lead toward the subject. Do you have any other TV show recommendations to get this conversation flowing?

  • About Author

    Tyler Jacobson

    Tyler Jacobson

    Tyler Jacobson is a father, husband, and writer, with experience as a content writer and outreach coordinator for HelpYourTeenNow. Tyler has offered honest advice and humor to struggling parents and teens. Tyler has researched and written on education problems, disorders, the world of social media, addiction, and pressing issues with raising a teen today. Follow Tyler on:
    Twitter | Linkedin | Google +

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