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Preventing child suicide

The topic is difficult, but talking is essential 

HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS HAVE RECENTLY SEEN AN INCREASE in suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children as young as elementary school age. 

Parents, teachers and friends can help prevent suicide if they know the signs and what to ask. 

Depression can strike anyone. A child may indeed have little “reason” to feel this way, but let go of that judgment when talking to a child or adolescent. Start the conversation by mentioning a news story. You can say, “I saw this story about teen depression, and I was wondering…” 

Have you ever felt sad, hopeless or down most of the day? 

Have you ever thought that you might not want to be alive anymore? 

Have you ever thought about ending your life or killing yourself? 

If you hear “no,” but it sounds hesitant or uncertain, address it. You can say “I heard you say ‘no,’ but you hesitated.” If they still say “no,” reassure them that you want to help and they won’t be in trouble if they share thoughts like these with you. Restart the conversation later. 

You cannot trigger someone to end their life by asking if they have thought about it. In fact, by encouraging them to share their thoughts, you may reduce their distress and likelihood that they will feel that suicide is their only option. 

If your child feels depressed and has suicidal thoughts, immediately talk to your pediatrician for appropriate community referrals. Take your child to an emergency room for a behavioral health evaluation if you think they will take their life. You can also call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help. Text “TALK” to 741741 or call 1-800-273-TALK(8255). 

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