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CHKD Blog

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Suicide Prevention: What Parents Should Know

Author: Sam Fabian
Published Date: Tuesday, September 01, 2020

By Sam Fabian, Community Outreach

Each of us has the power to be the one to help prevent suicide. This September, a new social media campaign for National Suicide Prevention Month – #BETHE1TO – empowers each of us to help prevent suicide by taking five specific 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 is now the second leading cause of death in youth ages 10 to 24.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a scenario where our youth spend more time online to play, work, interact with friends, go to school, and fill downtime. Being caught up in a digital world can make it more difficult to see the signs that your child has increased feelings of distress, anxiety, and hopelessness. Obvious signs like changes in routine or inactivity may not be as apparent due to the time spent online and the necessary isolation COVID-19 has created.

There are signs, however, that can signal when your child or someone you know is considering suicide, especially during times of physical distancing.

  • 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 … ”
  • Notice if your youth stops doing what they love, such as no longer playing an instrument, drawing, writing, or playing a sport.
  • In addition to the above, 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 suspect your child is struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression, you can #BETHE1TO:

1.) Ask. Communicate with your child or teen your concerns in a supportive way to open the door. Directly asking “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” can kickstart an effective dialogue about their emotional pain. Do not promise to keep their thoughts of suicide a secret. Actively listen and do not ignore or dismiss their thoughts or feelings.

2.) Be there. Whether you are a parent, relative, or friend, being there physically may not always be possible, but you can still connect by talking on the phone or through FaceTime or Zoom, which shows support for a person at risk. Whether you connect online or in person, just listening to their reasons for feeling hopeless or in pain, without judgment and with compassion, will reinforce they are being heard, which in turn builds hope and can save their life. Never underestimate the power of connection.

3.) Keep them safe. If you have determined your child is having suicidal thoughts, establishing safety is critical. Knowing if they have tried to kill themselves before, or have a plan, and knowing if they have access to their planned method is critical in determining what to do next. This will help you understand the severity of the danger your child is in. Depending on the severity and access to the method they have identified, call 911 or take your child to the nearest emergency department immediately. CHKD has a licensed mental health professional in the emergency department 24/7 who can provide an assessment, resources, and partner with you and your child on next steps.

4.) Help them connect. Those who have suicidal thoughts should be connected with ongoing supports. Lifeline, (800) 273-TALK (8255), is a suicide hotline that can help them establish a safety net for those moments they find themselves in a crisis. In addition, your child can text the word HOME to 741741 to establish a chat with a trained crisis counselor. CHKD’s 757-668-HOPE (4673) line can assist parents in identifying local resources and services for their child during business hours.

5.) Follow up. Check in regularly with your child. They may express, in some form or fashion, that you are annoying them by checking-in, but do it anyway. It does matter to your child, as it demonstrates that you care and want to be sure that they are safe. It’s important for you to physically see them to check in when possible and use technology if not. They need to feel connected and have a sense of belonging.

For more information about mental health services at CHKD, visit CHKD.org/MentalHealth.



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About Sam Fabian

Community outreach program manager Sam Fabian oversees parent education and outreach programs at CHKD. She coordinates CHKD conferences and special events and collaborates with community boards and coalitions. She also develops programmatic partnerships with local schools, recreation centers and clubs and civic organizations.