Talking to Kids about Suicide

by Christa Hines on November 11, 2014

“Place your hand over your heart, can (1)Two teenage girls, who attended our neighborhood high school, committed suicide this past weekend. One ended her life Friday afternoon and the other teen, who had just expressed her grief about the loss of her classmate on her Twitter account, stood in front of an oncoming train on Sunday evening.

My deepest condolences go out to the families and friends of these two teens.

Whenever anyone so young chooses to end his or her life, the tragedy reverberates throughout the entire community. No matter where you live, talk to your kids about suicide and learn ways to help your child grow more resilient.

I want to share an excerpt of a letter that Gwen Poss, the principal at the girls’ high school sent to parents and released to the media. These are important reminders for all of us to think about when talking to kids impacted by suicide.

Here is my request for all parents for this afternoon or evening – please have a heartfelt conversation with your student about these tragedies and specifically about suicide. Have this conversation with your son or daughter tonight – you know them best. Ask them how they are feeling, be non-judgmental, and avoid any gossip related to details of the deaths or causes. Keep communication open and maintain high supervision and knowledge of their whereabouts. It will be vital that you are closely monitoring your student’s social media accounts for messages being sent and received.

Include in your conversations tonight these messages:

– Suicide is a horrible decision and is not an option.

– There is nothing they could have done or said to change the outcome of these tragic deaths.

– Emphasize that suicide is not the way to handle problems, no matter how big or how painful.

– Help is available. Talk to a parent, a teacher, any trusted adult.

– If they know of a friend that is struggling, let an adult know as soon as possible.”

Prevention tips and awareness

Ways to help lessen the chances that your child will consider suicide an option when times get rough include building a strong, cohesive network around your child and developing a relationship built on good communication. That’s not always easy with teens, but don’t give up and stay on top of what they are saying on social media.

These aren’t one-time conversations. Use books, movies and TV shows to highlight individuals who overcome unimaginable odds, refusing to give up. Share your own stories and challenges. Life may seem dark and overwhelming right now, but it always gets better.

Encourage your child to let an adult know if they notice a peer posting messages on social media that indicate they might end their life.

According to the the National Association of School Psychologists, factors that can strengthen a child’s resiliency  to suicide include:

  • Peer support and close social networks.
  • School and community connectedness.
  • Cultural or religious beliefs that discourage suicide and promote healthy living.
  • Adaptive coping and problem-solving skills, including conflict-resolution.
  • General life satisfaction, good self-esteem, sense of purpose.
  • Easy access to effective medical and mental health resources.

For more information also check out the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bobby Saint March 9, 2018 at 12:34 am

I couldn’t agree more when you said one way to help prevent your child from entertaining thoughts of committing suicide is by building a strong, cohesive network around your child and developing a relationship built on good communication. It is important for parents to be sensitive to the needs of their child, especially if their child wants to strike a conversation with them. While giving advice to your child is very important, it is also crucial for parents to listen to what their child has to say. This way, your child is able to cope and overcome his issues. Thanks.


Christa Hines March 9, 2018 at 12:50 pm

Excellent point. Listening definitely helps validate a child’s emotions. As parents, we so often want to fix our kids problems that we forget that simply listening is an exceptionally important way to support them. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Bobby!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: