Discussing Suicide with Children

(this material was taken from North Dakota State University's website and authored by Sean Brotherson, Ph.D., Family Science Specialist, NDSU Extension Service and April Anderson, Undergraduate Student, Child Development and Family Science)*

Key Points of Discussion Regarding Suicide

Parents and other adults are critical in helping children and youth understand and deal with issues related to suicide and suicidal ideation. Several key points may be useful in considering discussion regarding suicide:

• Acknowledge the serious nature of suicide as a public health issue and both a personal and national tragedy. Suicide should not be sensationalized and it should not be normalized when it is discussed. Approaching it from a straightforward and fact-based perspective that emphasizes causes and consequences is most helpful.

• Directly and sensitively discuss suicide as a problem issue in a responsible way and help individuals process their feelings. Approach the topic with the use of good information and available professional resources. Research has shown discussion of suicide with teens does not lead to any increased thinking about suicide or to suicidal behaviors. Responsible discussion can allow peers to identify others who may exhibit suicidal thinking or behaviors and give them support.

• Identify clearly the factors that can make an individual more vulnerable to the risk of suicide. The notion that a person who talks about suicide is unlikely to make an attempt at suicide is not true. Thoughts often lead to intentions and eventually to acts. Often a person who is vulnerable to the possibility of suicide does not have the emotional resources and support to cope with their challenges. Identifying and assisting individuals who are vulnerable is an important element of suicide prevention.

• Take each person's feelings and actions regarding suicide seriously and assist individuals in getting support if needed. Help children and youth realize that getting help from mental health professionals or other sources may be needed. Also, provide support, care and listening as needed to help individuals deal with personal challenges. Inform yourself and others about local and national resources you may access to assist someone.


*"Talking to Children About Suicide," North Dakota State University, Sean Brotherson, Ph.D., Family Science Specialist, NDSU Extension Service and April Anderson, Undergraduate Student, Child Development and Family Science, http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/famsci/fs637w.htm


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