A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Suicide prevention: How to help children and teens

If your child is experiencing stress and signs of depression, it’s a good time to discuss mental health and suicide prevention.

Suicide prevention: Know the signs and follow these tips

Showing your child support and talking about their feelings is important. It can be helpful to normalize thoughts of sadness and how it can then connect to hopelessness and thoughts of suicide.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people, and, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, was the tenth-leading cause of death in the nation, according to a CDC report.

Depression and Suicide warning signs

While we cannot predict suicidal behavior in individuals, but there are warning signs we can look for. Warning signs can include any change in eating or sleeping, isolation from family and/or friends. They may also show decreased interest in activities that they previously enjoyed, increased sadness and feelings of hopelessness.

Some children or adolescents may even say that they have thoughts of no longer wanting to be alive. When your child makes these statements, you should connect with a mental health professional to evaluate your child. “Often, parents and caregivers may think that such comments are made as a ploy for attention,” said Rachel Chenoweth, D.N.P., Marshfield Clinic Health System nurse practitioner. “However, this must be evaluated promptly due to children and adolescent’s propensity for impulsivity.”

Talking to teens and children about suicide

Many think that asking children or adolescents about suicide will then cause them to start thinking about suicide, but research has shown this is not true. If anything, it shows your child that you are someone that they can come to for support.

It can be helpful to normalize thoughts of sadness and how it can then connect to hopelessness and thoughts of suicide. “An example of how I ask about suicidal thoughts in clinic is ‘I’m sorry it sounds like you’ve been having a really difficult time. Often, when kids are feeling sad such as you currently are, they may have thoughts that they no longer want to be alive. Do you ever have thoughts like that? Can you tell me more about them?’” Chenoweth said.

Even if it’s a hard conversation, providing support and working to connect people at risk to resources, we can prevent suicides and save lives.

This video provides useful tips on how to ask a teen if they are having suicidal thoughts.

Get Help: Suicide prevention and crisis hotlines

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, Chenoweth has several recommendations. Lock away and secure all firearms in your home. Keep ammunition kept in a separate place from firearms. Easy access to firearms is closely linked to an increased likelihood of suicide.

“Locking away firearms and ammunition gives people a chance to stop and think before acting on dark thoughts,” Chenoweth said.

She also recommends locking up all medications in the home to prevent overdose. “Children and adolescents should have all medication administered to them by an adult and should not be responsible for taking their medications unsupervised,” she said.

There are digital tools that provide immediate access to the National Suicide Prevention Line. The direct number for the National Suicide Prevention Line is 1- 800-273-8255. You can also call or text 988 or visit https://988lifeline.org/ to speak at a trained crisis worker at the crisis hotline.

For questions about suicide prevention, talk to a Marshfield Clinic Health System provider.

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  1. Sep 25, 2020

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