In 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for teens. Suicide rates for adolescent girls has doubled since 2007, as have suicide attempts.
The first step to improving mental health and reducing teenage suicide is by having informed, rational public and private discussions about it within the community. This starts with a conversation between you and your teen.
Here are 4 tips for talking to your teen about suicide.
Conversations about suicide, depression, and self-harm can be difficult to have with a loved one, especially a child. Commit to staying calm, compassionate, and better understanding their pain. Be honest, but do not minimize or dismiss their feelings.
Talk to someone you trust about the situation. This could be a friend, family member, or a mental health professional. We gain great wisdom and perspective from those who have experienced a similar situation and are able to communicate the lessons from it.
Lastly, prepare a list of options and resources for your teen in case they do not want to speak with you about their feelings. They may not be ready to open up, or, they may feel more comfortable talking to someone else. Direct them to these resources and make the options accessible for them.
One way to start this difficult conversation is by asking “You haven’t been yourself lately- is everything okay?” This soft, simple invitation to share can be the beginning of a dialogue and closer relationship that leads to positive changes in mental health.
Here are a few questions that can help further a meaningful discussion.
– How long have you been struggling with this?
– Have you ever thought about hurting yourself?
– What lessens the pain you are feeling?
– How can I support you?
Listening is a skill. It is the first step towards influencing, persuading, and negotiating effectively. Skillful listening reduces conflict and misunderstandings. To truly listen requires patience, focus, and empathy. These skills take time to develop so if you do not already possess them, be mindful of them during the conversation.
Listen intently, and with intent. Do not interrupt. Maintain eye contact but don’t stare, and repeat back what the person says to indicate you hear them and understand.
Make a plan for things to get better. Make plans to have another conversation. Have a plan in case things get worse.
Moving forward from this conversation with a clear plan creates certainty and fosters positive goal-setting. Once a commitment is made to improving mental health is made, help your teen establish a strategy and roadmap for getting there. Provide them the resources to get better.
Talking to your teen about suicide can be daunting. We hope this article has helped prepare you for this conversation. If your teen has expressed feelings of self-harm or suicide, consider scheduling them an appointment with a mental health professional at Dean A. Aman, LPCMH. Contact us today.