12 Things Parents Can Do to Help Prevent Suicide

As children grow into pre-teens and teenagers, it becomes more challenging for parents to know what they are thinking and feeling. When do the normal ups and downs of adolescence become something to worry about?

Parents and family members can help pre-teens and teens cope when life feels too difficult to bear. Learn about the factors that can increase your child’s risks for suicide and explore the 12 suggestions below. These steps can help you feel better prepared to offer the caring, non-judgmental support your child needs.

Things Parents Can Do

1. If you see signs that your child’s mental health is under threat, tune in.

Maybe your child is just having a bad day, but when signs of mental health troubles last for weeks, don’t assume it’s just a passing mood.

  • Teens who haven’t been diagnosed with any mental health condition may still be at risk. In part, this is because it can be hard to pinpoint mental health issues at early ages.
  • Many teens who attempt suicide do not have underlying mental health issues, but in most cases, they will give signs that they’re considering ending their own lives.

2. Listen—even when your child is not talking.

Watch for major changes in your child’s sleep patterns, appetite, and social activities. Self-isolation, especially for kids who usually enjoy hanging out with friends or playing sports, can signal serious difficulties. If your child is struggling more than usual with schoolwork, chores and other responsibilities, these are additional signs you shouldn’t ignore.

3. Realize that your child might be facing suicide risks you haven’t considered yet.

Many parents wonder: Could this really happen to my child? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Young people of all races, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, income levels, and community backgrounds die by suicide every year. In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people 10 to 24 years old.

Get more perspective on your child’s specific risks.

4. Try not to dismiss what you’re seeing as “teenage drama.”

Never assume your child is exaggerating or playing games if they say or write:

  • “I want to die.”
  • “I don’t care anymore.”
  • “Nothing matters.”
  • “I wonder how many people would come to my funeral?”
  • “Sometimes I wish I could just go to sleep and never wake up.”
  • “Everyone would be better off without me.”
  • “You won’t have to worry about me much longer.”

Many kids who attempt suicide will tell their parents ahead of time (though others do not). These words indicate an urgent need for help.

5. Respond with empathy and understanding.

When your child talks or writes about suicide, you may feel shocked, hurt, or angry. You may even want to deny what you’re seeing or argue with your child. These feelings are natural and valid, but it’s essential to focus on your child’s needs first and foremost. Your goal is to create a safe space where your teen can trust you to listen and express concern, but without judgment or blame.

6. Get professional help right away.

If your teen is self-harming, or you sense they’re at risk for attempting suicide, take them to the emergency department of your local hospital. Fast action is crucial when things have reached a crisis point.

If you see signs of suicidal thoughts but don’t sense an immediate crisis, you still need to take action. Reach out to your pediatrician or local mental health providers who treat children and teens. Explain what you’re seeing and hearing and schedule a mental health evaluation.

Excerpted from “12 Things Parents Can Do to Help Prevent Suicide” from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Healthychildren.org. Read the full article for more additional details on the above suggestions and the remaining six recommendations, below:

7. Remove or secure guns you have at home. Do the same with other lethal tools and substances.

8. As your child enters treatment, focus on creating hope.

9. Encourage them to see family and friends.

10. Suggest exercise.

11. Encourage balance and moderation.

12. Remind each other that this will take time.

Source: Healthychildren.org |  12 Things Parents Can Do to Help Prevent Suicide, https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/emotional-problems/Pages/Ten-Things-Parents-Can-Do-to-Prevent-Suicide.aspx | American Academy of Pediatrics Copyright © 2022, last updated May 2022.

Crisis Resources

For immediate assistance, the following resources are available 24/7 unless otherwise noted:

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A screening can help you determine if you or someone you care about should contact a mental health professional. Care Coordinators can arrange a free 30-minute Care Consultation so you can explore options with an expert. Call or email us at 650.688.3625 or careteam@chconline.org to set up an initial Consultation appointment.

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