Having a Serious and Frank Conversation with Your Kids About Suicide

Kids and Suicide: Having a Serious and Frank Conversation About the Topic

Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s topic.

It just broke my heart to hear in the news that two students who survived the Parkland shooting in 2018 died by suicide related to PTSD. I can’t even imagine the psychological trauma they endured from such a horrible tragedy. I have a son and it worries me sick thinking of something like that happening at his school. I also can’t help but think that there might be other unimaginable things he and kids his age go through that might trigger feelings of suicide. It scares me to death, and as his mother, I want to know how in the world to even broach this subject with him, let alone help him if he is feeling desperate enough to consider taking his own life.

The entire Rice Psychology Group family was saddened and shaken to hear about the Parkland shooting last year. As with all horrendous school shootings, it hit way too close to home. And then recently, the father of a victim of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting took his own life as well.

Our licensed psychologists and mental health counselors in Tampa want for everyone reading this to know that seeking help with traumatic incidents, depression, or suicidal thoughts or feelings should not be something to shy away from. We’re here to help you, and we also want to provide some information on the topic.

Suicide Contagion

Although we’ve spoken about teen suicide before, it’s something we need to discuss often. One thing we’ve never really shed light on before is “suicide contagion”. This term refers to the exposure to suicide or similar behaviors within your family, group of friends, or even media reporting of suicide. This exposure can increase behaviors relating to suicide.

Studies have shown that either direct or indirect exposure can sometimes precede an increase in behaviors in people who are already at risk of suicide. This is especially true with adolescents and young adults.

You and Your Family

Most of us have felt overwhelmed in our lives at one point or another. Hopefully, you have a few go-to coping skills that you can count on to bring at least a modicum relief on those very dark days. However, for some people, stress and emotional pain can exceed their ability to cope and they may feel that dying is the only way to end their suffering.

It can be quite challenging to have a frank talk with your family (specifically your kids) about suicide. That’s why it’s important to have the courage to talk about the elephant in the room.

At a minimum, do your best to be open, direct, and honest about this topic. It’s okay and we encourage you to show some vulnerability with them (think Brené Brown). Stay calm and let them know that they can talk with you about this taboo subject without you freaking out on them.

Raising the topic of suicide with your kids needs to be done in a way that is sensitive to:

  • Their level of maturity.
  • How they seem to be doing emotionally.
  • Their current level of stress and distress.
  • Whether they know of others who have talked about, attempted, or succeeded at suicide.

Talking to Your Kids

For the most part, kids are incredibly resilient. All kids have strengths and we want to help them use them to get through tough times. We know that not talking about suicide is more dangerous than talking about it.

In fact, one of the best ways to prevent suicide is to open a dialogue about it:

  • Ask your kids if they are having or have had suicidal thoughts or urges.
  • Explore positive (healthy) ways of dealing with stress.
  • Offer sources of social support and people that they can talk to when things seem beyond hope.
  • Share things that you are looking forward to in the future with them.

If your child is having suicidal thoughts or urges, is preoccupied with thoughts of death, or if they are showing other changes with their general attitude, personality, or behavior, we urge you to get them help with a licensed and experienced psychologist or therapist.

Tell Your Kids the Truth

It can be tough for your kids to hear that some people resort to suicide following school shootings. But remember that most kids need to hear the truth, and with some help, can handle it to an extent that is developmentally appropriate for them.

We believe that it’s best that they hear it from you, their most trusted and loved source. Now, we’re not advocating that you scare them with this discussion, but talking about it is a way that can help prevent further tragedy.

As we mentioned earlier, this conversation can be hard to have, and even more so when you aren’t too familiar with the subject. Fortunately, there are many helpful sources on the Internet. One that we at Rice Psychology Group invite you to explore is the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

Talking with Us

If you would rather have a professional talk to you and your kids about suicide, its causes, and prevention, then that’s where we come in. We’re proud to utilize the Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS). With CAMS, you or your loved one will be fully involved in this interactive program to create a treatment plan for the issue at hand.

If you’re ready to have an honest and supportive discussion about suicide or any of the causes that have resulted in you, a loved one, or your child feeling suicidal, then reach out to us in Tampa today.

About Rice Psychology

Rice Psychology Group is home to a team of psychologists who work tirelessly to help adults, adolescents and children deal with their issues. Whether you’re currently dealing with depression, going through a divorce or fighting an issue you just can’t understand, know that our Tampa psychologists are here to help.

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