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How to talk to kids about suicide prevention

While it is a hard topic to discuss, it is a very important one, as there are about 130 suicides per day in the United States.

GREENWOOD, Ind. — September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. While it is a hard topic to discuss, it is a very important one, as there are about 130 suicidal deaths per day in the United States, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

WTHR spoke with education expert Jennifer Brinker from Greenwood Middle School about ways parents can talk to children about the crisis. 

Matthew Fultz - WTHR: Mrs. Brinker, this is obviously very concerning for parents: How common of a problem is this?

Mrs. Brinker: Well, I think it is important to note that suicide is the second leading cause of death in kids ages 15-24, and a recent study showed that nearly 20% of high school students reported that they have had thoughts of suicide. It is incredibly important to be able to have conversations with your child and know what to look out for.

Matthew Fultz - WTHR: What kind of warning signs can parents look out for?

Mrs. Brinker: Honestly, any major changes. This could be changes in appearance, changes in grades, withdrawing from activities that they used to like, beginning to experiment with drugs or alcohol, and obviously engaging in any self-harm.

Matthew Fultz - WTHR: So, if you are a parent and you notice some of these things, what do you do?

Mrs. Brinker: I will tell you what not to do and that is to ignore it. Communication is critical. There is a myth that says talking about suicide plants that idea in kids’ heads, but that isn’t accurate. Your kids need to be able to talk with you. You know your child better than anyone, so trust your gut if you feel like something is wrong and get your child into counseling. The cost of overreacting is much less severe than failing to act.

Matthew Fultz - WTHR: You mentioned self-harm earlier. What would you say to those who say that those are just attention-seeking behaviors?

Mrs. Brinker: While things like cutting are more common than ever, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a very serious problem. If a child is going to go to those measures to get attention, they need some serious help…professional help. 

Matthew Fultz - WTHR: What are schools doing to help with this crisis?

Mrs. Brinker: Schools have had to address this crisis as we are seeing students younger and younger engage in self-harm and suicidal ideations. We have to work with students to be able to recognize and understand their feelings and give them tools to help them stay regulated. More and more, schools can help parents by lining up counseling during the school day via contracts with mental health agencies like Adult and Child. We are also trained each year on suicide prevention, so we learn those warning signs and the best ways to intervene. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can call or text 988 or go to 988lifeline.org to reach the suicide and crisis hotline. Click here for more resources that are available through the National Alliance on Mental Health.

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