Explore Two Important Questions for Suicide Prevention
Let’s face it, when it comes to communicating with your kids, you’d probably rather talk about sex than suicide. But as a mom who lost a son to suicide in 2015, it’s a conversation you need to have with a young person – even if everything looks okay on the outside.
My son Charles was the funniest, most popular kid in school and the last person you’d ever expect to take his life. When I looked back later after learning more, I saw obvious signs of suicide and recognized times I should have listened more and lectured less.
At this point in my grief journey, I have forgiven myself for the 5 percent of parenting I did imperfectly, choosing instead to focus on the 95 percent I did right – and remembering the beautiful life that went with that.
This article will focus on how to get past the roadblocks of very uncomfortable, but necessary, conversations that include suicide. Because it saves lives. We will explore two questions: Why don’t people ask? Why don’t people tell?
Why don’t we ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?”
(The comments below were shared in the print version of the magazine but not the online version so I included them here below.)
Here are some comments young people have shared with me about why they don’t want to tell people about thoughts of suicide and responses to that confession:
“No one cares. No one will care when I’m gone.”
Male, age twelve
“It’s hard for a man in the African American community to admit he is hurting so much he’d want to kill himself. It makes me look weak and that’s how I’d be seen by my bros. I’d rather die.”
Male, age twenty-six
“I did tell my dad and he told me to ‘pray on it.’ It’s just better for me to end it.” Male, age fifteen, who lives in a remote rural community
“I told my mom and sister and they both said I was drama queen.” College freshman
“I’m afraid my mom and dad will no longer be proud of me.”
Male, age fifteen
“I’m afraid the army will find out and I’ll never get promotions … That’s why I drive 45 minutes to see a private counselor. I don’t want them to know.”
Black male army recruit
“I’m gay and now that I’ve come out, I feel the pressure in the LGBTQ community to look and act a certain way and I just don’t fit that mold.” Young adult male (who looked up how to kill himself online)
“I love my parents a lot and I also don’t want to tell them about my worries because they are already stressed out with a lot of other things…” Male middle school student, age eleven
“I first wanted to kill myself when I was eleven, and that’s the first time I self-harmed as well. My mom doesn’t believe in mental illness and thinks it’s a choice.” Alex, age thirteen
“My social studies teacher saved my life, and as happy and grateful as I am to him, all he did was showed me he cared for probably less than an hour, and that is what saved my life. How can my life be so disposable that if it went the other way, I probably would have been dead. All I needed was one person to make me feel like they actually care.” Alyssa, age fifteen
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While nothing is guaranteed, these tips will help lower the risk. Because knowing what to say, and how to respond helps parents and caregivers have tough conversations with more clarity and confidence.