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Unhappy teenage girl

Prevent Suicide With These 5 Steps

Suicide is preventable, and each of us has the power to help. September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and Take 5 to Save Lives empowers each of us to help prevent suicide by taking five simple steps. Although no parent wants to think about their child feeling suicidal or struggling with their mental health, it’s important to talk about it. Growing up has always presented challenges, but today, life seems more complicated than ever before. Anxiety, depression, and youth suicide rates have been on the rise for the last decade. Suicide continues to be the second leading cause of death in youth ages 10 to 24.

There are warning signs to look for if you think your child, or someone you know, may be considering suicide.

  • Look for changes in your child’s tone, language, and time of day when texting, talking, or posting online. Initiate conversation about their online activity with questions like, “How was your day online?” or “Have you seen any interesting posts from your friends?”
  • Look for changes in the frequency and content they are posting online. Look out for posts that indicate hopelessness: “This is the last time I will … ”
  • Take note if your child stops doing what they love, such playing an instrument, drawing, writing, or playing a sport.
  • Watch for changes in energy levels or appetite, use of drugs or alcohol, mood swings, trouble sleeping or relaxing, frequent headaches or stomachaches, heightened worrying or anxiety, and giving things away to siblings or friends.

If you, your child, or someone you know, is struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression, here are five steps to take:

  1. Learn the signs. Contact a mental health professional or hotline if you see someone exhibiting one or more of the signs mentioned above. Call or text 988 or the emergency service number if you see or hear your child, or someone else, threaten to hurt or kill themselves or expressing that they want to die or to hurt someone else.
  2. Know how to help. If someone is exhibiting signs of mental distress, or talking about or threatening to hurt or kill themselves, take it seriously. Ask if they are thinking about suicide, and listen without judgment, respond with kindness and care, and be sure to follow up to support their transition from crisis to recovery. Do not promise to keep their thoughts of suicide a secret.
  3. Practice self-care. This involves practicing good emotional hygiene. Be mindful of your experiences that cause emotional pain and practice self-compassion. Avoid negative repetitive thoughts. Make time for family, friends, and for yourself to recharge with positive energy. Eating well and adequate sleep nourishes the body and positively affects mood and overall mental wellness.
  4. Reach out. Everyone needs help and support now and then. Check in with your child and other family members regularly. Do not be afraid to talk to your child’s pediatrician about any concerns. Those who have suicidal thoughts should be connected to ongoing supports. Lifeline, which can be reached by calling (800) 273-TALK (8255), is a suicide hotline that can help establish a safety net for times when an individual finds themselves in a crisis. In addition, your child can text the word HOME to 741741 to establish a chat with a trained crisis counselor. During business hours, parents can reach CHKD’s “hope” line by calling 757-668-HOPE (4673) to speak with someone who can assist in identifying local resources and services for your child.

For more information about mental health services at CHKD, visit Click here for more mental health education programs.

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About CHKD  Get pediatric health news, health tips, and more from the region's most trusted name in pediatric healthcare. Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters is a network of pediatric healthcare services in more than 40 locations that stretch from Williamsburg to Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and Virginia's only comprehensive freestanding pediatric hospital. Meet our doctors here.