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Talking to Your Child about Mental Health and Suicide

It is Suicide Prevention Month, and it is a great time to talk to your child or teen about mental health issues. This isn’t an easy conversation to have with an adult, much less your child, when there might be a lot of emotion or fear involved on your part. Here are a few tips that, hopefully, help ease some of your anxiety:

1) Know the signs. Some of the signs of suicidality can be similar to your average teenage behaviors, such as isolating oneself and being aggressive or irritable. However, if you notice sudden changes in your child’s behavior or mood, giving things away, a preoccupation with death, or hear them talking about feeling hopeless or like a burden. It might be time to talk to them about their mental health and the ways they have been feeling. Self-harming behaviors such as cutting are also warning signs for suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

2) Find a neutral place to talk. Avoid sitting down across the kitchen table and getting the dreaded “MOOOOOM, I KNOW” or “DAAAAD, STOP IT.” One place that might be good for serious conversations such as this is in the car. The child has things they can look at other than looking you in the eye so that the conversation might feel less awkward. Having the conversation while engaging in an activity can also be more positive and helpful in burning some of their nervous energy. Examples of this would be talking while going for a walk at the park or playing basketball.

3) Don’t sugarcoat it but be age-appropriate! Younger children might not understand the idea of depression, anxiety, or suicide. You might have to talk to them about being sad, feeling scared, or wanting to sleep and not wake up. However, teenagers need you to be more upfront. It is important to use words such as suicide or “killing yourself” instead of “hurting yourself” as many people with suicidal ideations are already deeply hurting and think suicide is a means of relieving that pain. Teenagers might also be confusing, hurting yourself with self-harm.

4) Know when to ask for help – and don’t be ashamed to need it! If you are concerned, your child struggles with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, or any other life challenges, don’t be afraid to find them a counselor. Normalize it for them and tell them there is no shame in seeing someone to help talk through their problems. If you are concerned, your child is hurting him or herself or is at risk for suicide, contact one of the numbers below:

Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Youth Villages Mobile Crisis: 1-855-CRISIS-1 or 1-855 (274-7471)

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

This conversation can be scary, but it can be life-saving. If you live in Tennessee and think your child might need someone to talk to about stress, depression, anxiety, or other life issues,  Call and schedule a therapy appointment today at (931) 805-5780.

Speak Your Mind


151 West Dunbar Cave Road
Clarksville, TN 37040

(931) 908-8808

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