Talking to Your Kids About Suicidal Thoughts
Humans have an inborn survival instinct. But sometimes, suicidal thoughts may overshadow it. Though mostly adults commit suicides, kids aren’t completely immune to it. In 2006, 56 kids committed suicide. It’s difficult to imagine naïve kids having suicidal thoughts, but the truth is that both adults and kids can commit suicide. However, suicidal thoughts in kids aren’t considered a normal part of their growth. Sadly, parents and teachers aren’t sure how they should respond to a kid’s suicidal thoughts. As a result, they dismiss such thoughts as signs of seeking attention or triggered by hormones, and could rebuke the kid.
When a kid expresses suicidal ideas, it’s an early warning sign of imminent danger. So, adults should act with warmth and empathy because their response will decide if the kid will open up again should they experience suicidal thoughts in the future. If the adults respond poorly, the kids may never talk about their suicidal ideation if such thoughts cross their minds. Here are some ways adults can respond when their kid shares their suicidal thoughts:
- Say You Love Them
Suicidal thoughts are often triggered by a lack of self-worth, low self-esteem, and other pessimistic feelings. That’s why you should explicitly tell your kid how much you and the entire family love them and how important their life is.
- Consider the Matter Seriously
You should consider the matter seriously instead of thinking it’s a lie or attention-seeking behavior. Not giving due importance to your kid’s suicidal thoughts could mean the child not sharing such thoughts again in the future, should they have them, which could be deadly.
- Ask The Plan, If Any
A kid with a suicidal plan is scary. You should hide or remove firearms, if any, and keep medicines and other lethal items locked and away from your kid’s reach if they have a plan to commit suicide. All these may not still be enough as many suicides occur at night when everyone is asleep or during the day when the family members are away at work and school. If your kid’s suicidal plans are realistic, you should seek emergency medical attention immediately.
- Seek Professional Help
Since mental disorders trigger 90% of all suicides, you should always seek advice from a psychiatrist or therapist. While a psychiatrist can treat mental illness, if any, with medication, a therapist can help reduce stress levels and teach the kid effective coping skills. Such professionals can also make the kids more comfortable to open up and share their feelings.
- Become Their Go-To Person
Make your kids feel they can always come to you and share their feelings, even if they aren’t normal and veer toward suicidal ideation. By encouraging them to open up, you can create a robust foundation for mental health and encourage them to approach you in the future if they have suicidal thoughts again.
You should respond to your kid’s suicidal thoughts with love, empathy, and concern and dial the local emergency hotline if the kid’s suicidal plans seem realistic. Dismissing such thoughts or underreacting could have deadly consequences.