In April 2019 CNN reported that between 2007 and 2015, the number of children going to ER with suicidal thoughts and attempts doubled. The article cited findings from the Center for Disease Control that found the number children between the ages of 5 and 18 who had received a diagnosis of suicidal ideation or suicide attempts increased from 580,000 in 2007 to 1.12 million with the average age being 13 years old.
There are speculations surrounding why, that could be anything from a difficult home life, to stress at school, including academics and bullying from peers, and even mental health imbalances. In any case, an increasing amount of children are viewing situations in their life as hopeless, and as a result are searching for means to get out — even at all costs.
This trend is something that scares parents and causes many to wonder how this sensitive topic should be approached. After all, it is likely that this was not a topic that was discussed when you were a child. Parents these days are entering uncharted territory, and it is scary. This is why we’ve brought you the following tips on how to approach this sensitive topic.
Give Your Child a Safe Place to Talk
Oftentimes, children have a difficult time opening up about challenges. This doesn’t mean they don’t want to, but for some reason or another, they are scared. Perhaps they feel shame for not doing well in school, or for not having friends. Maybe they are feeling pressure from home, and don’t know how to approach you with their concerns.
As a parent, it is important that you give your child a safe place to talk that is free from judgement, whether it’s in your home or facilitated by a professional.
Normalize Feelings of Anxiety and Sadness
Anxiety and depression are words that are used in regular language these days, which is not a bad thing. These things exist and should be talked about. The problem that many kids are running into is the assumption that these feelings are inescapable — that if they feel this way, that they will suffer with these feelings forever.
It is important to continue to normalize anxiety and sadness, while at the same time, letting your children know that these feelings can pass. Perhaps share times when you have felt sad or anxious, and ways you have coped.
Acknowledge Suicide as a Reality
It is not necessary to bring suicide up to your young children unless it comes up naturally. Maybe there is a family member or friend who died from suicide. Perhaps your child hears about it at school or on TV. If it is a topic that comes up, don’t run away from it, but acknowledge it as a reality.
If your child is young, you could say something like, “Sometimes people get so sad that they don’t feel like living anymore. If you ever feel so sad, please talk to me about it so I can help you.” If it is your teen or pre-teen, you could have a more open discussion about the realities of these situations, while still keeping the door of communication wide open.
Enlist Professional Help if Necessary
If you feel like your child is demonstrating signs that he or she may have suicide ideation, don’t think you have to deal with it alone. In fact, it is better that you don’t. There are trained professionals who can work with your child in a safe environment to help him or her navigate this challenging time toward a positive outcome.
For more information on how to help your child navigate this subject and others click here.