Why We Need to Talk About Suicide


In honor of Suicide Prevention Month (which is September), I am re-running a blog post from last October about not being afraid to talk to your teens about suicide.

Parents: Please don’t be afraid to discuss suicide with your teens

In the last two days, I have heard of two teenage deaths by suicide. In one of them, the school was proactive and engaged the support of mental health professionals. Teens, faculty and staff were given permission to discuss their powerful feelings, and grieve. There was also support for teens who might be feeling unstable as a result of this incident. At the other school, there has been no opportunity to process that this death was a suicide. Everyone is left with their big feelings and questions, and expected to go on as if things were normal.

We can’t ignore teen (or any) suicide or sweep it under the rug. There is an erroneous belief by even the most educated people that mentioning suicide puts the idea in a person’s head. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Putting the word suicide out there shows that you are open to further discussion, you are recognizing that the person isn’t “okay,” and that you care.

If their answer is “no,” you can feel reassured and know that you’ve shown yourself to be a person who isn’t afraid of the hard topics. If the answer is “yes,” then the first trick is not to freak out or overreact. Remain calm and available to listen, find out if they have a plan or specific time/day, listen to their intense pain. Most suicidal people don’t really want to die; they just want out of what they feel is unbearable emotional pain. Talk to them about the pain, not by problem solving or advice giving or judging, but by really listening and taking the time to understand. The situation may be more than you can handle, and professional help and support may be indicated, both for you and your teen. TEEN LINE is here to provide support and resources to get you through this time.

For more information on suicide warning signs, please click here.

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  1. Ellie Schneir says:

    I wish that I had known this 6 years ago when Matthew first disclosed that he had been experiencing suicidal ideation. I was afraid to bring up the topic, afraid to utter the word “suicide”. My failure to be able to talk to him in this manner is high on my very long list of regrets. Thank you, Teen Line, for all that you do to help Teens and their parents.

  2. TEEN LINE says:

    Ellie, as always, my heart breaks for your loss. Thank you and Peter for all you do to help us and other families.

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