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What Can Parents Do to Decrease the Risk of Suicide in Their Children?

sunset family silhouetteThere is no single cause of suicide — the act can arise from any combination of multiple factors — biological, environmental, psychological and situational. As a community, we agree that whatever can be done to mitigate these factors must be done; where we disagree, however, is where one might expect: What does “whatever can be done” entail?

Palo Alto psychiatrist Dr. Adam Strassberg provides suggestions to help us all “Keep Calm and Parent On” in an article published in Palo Alto Online.

Among Dr. Strassberg’s recommendations:

  • Make your teen sleep. Depression is a major factor in most suicides. Depression causes significant disruptions in sleep patterns. However, an emerging body of literature shows that sleep disruptions seem to precede and even precipitate depressive episodes.
  • Talk with your teen. Asking about suicide does not increase the risk of suicide. Asking about suicide will not implant the idea of suicide into your teens. Asking about suicide decreases the risk of suicide. So please do ask your teen directly about suicide.
  • Model mental health treatment for your teen. If you want your teen to find the happiness of a balanced life — to sleep properly, eat well, exercise, study, work, play, date, hang with friends, have community, enjoy nature, gain autonomy and competence, adventure, find purpose — you must model these things in your own lives. Children imitate the behaviors of the adults around them (even teens).

Read the full article, “Guest opinion: Keep Calm and Parent On” here.


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 our Care Coordinators at 650.688.3625 or careteam@chconline.org to set up an initial Consultation appointment.

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