The start of a new school year can be overwhelming for children and teens. Feelings of stress, confusion, fear and doubt can often influence problem-solving and decision-making skills and for some, suicide may seem like an idea.
According to national statistics, we lose more than 2,000 children and teens per year to suicide. It is the second leading cause of death among 10 to 19 year olds.
Asking a child directly about suicidal thoughts is usually the best thing a parent can do to help their child open up about their emotions.
Even if their child is not struggling with suicide or depression, parents can model for their child that it is good to talk about serious emotional concerns with trusted adults and important to reach out to friends to have these conversations, too.
Dr. John Ackerman, a clinical psychologist and suicide prevention coordinator for the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, offers recommendations:
Don’t wait for a crisis: A good opportunity to talk about suicide or mental health issues is when things are going well.
Check in regularly: Ask the child directly how they are doing and if they have ever had thoughts about ending their life.
Look for changes in mood and behavior: This could be a sign that something is wrong.
For example, if the child seems really down, they stop doing things they normally enjoy, or you notice significant changes in eating or sleeping.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.