Suicide is not an isolated issue. It is a universal issue that affects individuals regardless of gender, race, socioeconomic background, and family structure. And as the Kansas City community has seen this year—suicide affects young people, too. As of June 2017, Johnson County, Kansas has experienced 11 suicides among children ages 25 and younger, and Jackson County as seen 17 suicides among the same age
group. The fact is, death by suicide is occurring among some of our youngest
individuals in our community.
For parents and caregivers reading this, it can be scary and overwhelming to
acknowledge the possibility of death by suicide occurring to a child. In the midst of
all this fear and uncertainty, there is hope. As a parent, you are armed with the
intimacy and ability to care and advocate for your child’s mental health and
wellbeing. No matter the health status of your own child, it is important to begin the
conversation about suicide now. In beginning that dialog and road towards healing,
here are four things to know when talking to your child about suicide.
1. Speak openly and honestly
One of the most common myths about suicide is that talking about
suicide can give someone the idea to kill himself or herself. For most
individuals, it can be a relief to have a loved one address their deepest
pain and lift a piece of that the burden. By speaking to your child
about suicide directly, you are reaching out your hand to comfort your
child and tell them that they are not in this suffering alone.
2. Express empathy
Being heard. It’s a simple concept, but can be one of the greatest gifts
to give your child. It can be so scary for an individual to experience
suicidal thoughts and contemplate something as serious as taking his
or her own life. In speaking with your child, it is important to withhold
any judgment or opinions and just listen.
In an effort to take away pain, sometimes we jump to a quick fix or
solution. We want to put a Band-Aid on the scraped knee instead of
letting the wound sit until it is properly cleaned and cared for. We say
things like, “But you’ve got such a great life ahead of you” or “At least
you have me.”
Suicidal thoughts don’t go away when they are dismissed. Remember to
seek understanding and express empathy before jumping to a
3. Offer Hope
Suicidal feelings and thoughts are temporary. They are not the
identity of the child and do not make the child weak or damaged. This
pain that the child is experiencing does not have to be the end of their
4. Seek professional help when necessary
Suicidality operates on a continuum. It is not uncommon for an
individual to have suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives, but
that may not mean they have an intention or plan to act on those
Look for warning signs such as changes in behavior and mood,
depression, withdrawal and isolation.
If your child discloses that he or she has suicidal intentions or a plan,
it is important to take his or her threats seriously and seek
Trust your instincts. You know your child best. If you notice that
something is not right, take that step for your child and get help.
If you find yourself in immediate crisis, call the confidential and free National Suicide
Prevention Lifeline at 1-800- 273-8255.
Sarah Kindscher, LPC, NCC