Why you need to TALK about suicide with your kids

Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds, and in Halton region alone, Regional police receive, on average, one suicide-related call per day. Think about that: a suicide-related call EVERY DAY from someone in distress.

sad teenAs much as it’s uncomfortable to face, teens and young adults die by suicide. It’s a fact. We need to talk about suicide with our kids. If we are afraid to, then how do we expect them to ask for and get help? And we know the fear of opening up and talking to someone is the number one barrier to getting help.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. So let’s start a movement. Parents around the world get talking! Let’s break down the stigma, one conversation at a time. Even if it is uncomfortable or scary for you, start talking about suicide with your kids. When we avoid the subject of suicide, it sends the message that there is something shameful and taboo about those who are thinking about it.

You’ve read the above stats, but still we think “not my child”. It’s hard to believe that our own children could be at risk. Sadly, sometimes we can miss the warning signs.  

Keep in mind as well, even if your teen is not at risk he/she may need to help a friend. Evidence suggests that youth are more likely to talk to their peers about their thoughts of suicide than parents or other adults.

I will never forget one endless night in grade 10 when I stayed awake talking on the phone with a close friend who did not want to live any more. I had no idea what to do… the only thing I knew at this tender age was that there was no way I was hanging up the phone. I didn’t know what to say. I listened. I cried. I kept telling him that he was important to me and others, and that I wouldn’t be able to deal with it if he died. It really scared me. At the time, I didn’t know if what I was saying was helpful. I had him promise not to do anything and that I would see him later that day. He finally agreed as the sun was coming up and we hung the phone up. I never slept. I was worried, but I never told anyone about that night.  I wish someone had talked to me about suicide. I might have felt comfortable asking for help. Thankfully, my friend is still with us…

I know that some think that talking about suicide will influence suicidal behaviour. This is a total MYTH!

It’s actually the opposite. Talking about suicide with someone who may be suicidal reduces the risk that they may attempt. They should be asked directly if they are having suicidal thoughts or have a plan in place. It has been shown that when someone at risk is given the opportunity to talk, their threat to carry through with suicide diminishes (Suicide Resource Group,1999).

parents and teenParents, I challenge you to start the conversation. We need to be intentional in giving our kids the message that they can talk to us about anything, including suicidal thinking. Let them know you will listen without judgement, that you will figure things out together and get the help that is needed.

To help you get started, visit our own Halton Suicide Prevention Coalition website for information and resources.

Share with us your thoughts & conversations…

  • Leave us a comment below
  • Tweet us: @haltonparents
  • Email us: haltonparents@halton.ca
  • Dial 311 (within Halton) or 905-825-6000 to talk with one of the public health nurses. We’re around Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

About Cynthia Lindsay RN

Hi everyone. My name is Cynthia Lindsay and I work as a public health nurse with the school years program. I've been a nurse for almost 20 years (wow time flies!) with the last 10 years focused on what I've discovered to be my passion... Parenting. I now have many parenting accreditations and enjoy connecting with parents in the community through Triple P, parenting groups & social media. "Je parle aussi le français" and I love working, making connections, and raising my teen son & pre-teen daughter with my hubby in Halton.
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