Difficult, But Essential Conversations: Talking with Kids about Suicide

Experts Say Open Conversations with Kids about Suicide Could Save Lives

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Deylyn Medina, 17, was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, but Big Lots Behavioral Health Services at Nationwide Children's Hospital gave her the tools to thrive.

According to national statistics, we lose more than 2,000 children and teens per year to suicide. Experts say parents who check in regularly with their child could have a life-saving conversation.

According to suicide prevention experts for the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, asking a child directly about suicidal thoughts is usually the best thing a parent can do to help their child open up about their emotions. Even if their child is not struggling with suicide or depression, parents can model for their child that it is good to talk about serious emotional concerns with trusted adults and important to reach out to friends to have these conversations, too.

Dr. John Ackerman, Suicide Prevention Coordinator for the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research recommendations to parents, teachers and trusted adults include:

  • Do not wait for a crisis. A good opportunity to talk about suicide or mental health issues is when things are going well.
  • Check in regularly. Ask your child directly how they are doing and if they have ever had thoughts about ending their life.
  • Look for changes in mood or behavior. These could be a warning sign that something is wrong. For example, if the child seems really down, they stop doing things they normally enjoy, or you notice significant changes in eating or sleeping.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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Deylyn Medina, 17, was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, but Big Lots Behavioral Health Services at Nationwide Children's Hospital gave her the tools to thrive.

High school senior Deylyn Medina (second from right), says having difficult conversations with her friends and family helped her cope with anxiety and depression.

John Ackerman, PhD, suicide prevention coordinator for the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children's Hospital says that while talking about depression or suicide can be difficult, parents can have that conversation without putting a child at risk, and it can be helpful.

John Ackerman, PhD, suicide prevention coordinator for the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children's Hospital recommends checking in regularly with your child and asking them directly about how they are doing and if they have ever thought about ending their life.