How to Talk to Children Over 13 About Suicide
According to the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, the 2017 Youth Risk Behaviors Survey found that 7 percent of children in grades 9 to 12 reported to have made at least one suicide attempt in the past 12 months. That's why it's important to be proactive.
Westers suggests finding everyday opportunities to bring up the topic instead of saying things like "I want to talk to you about something," which will immediately set up the conversation to be awkward for your child. Was there a suicide recently covered by the news? Is your child's school implementing a suicide prevention program? Did they discuss the topic on a TV show or at school? Consider starting the conversation with "I read an article online about how parents should talk to their children about suicide" or "Did you hear about [insert news topic or prevention program]?"
Ask your child if he or she has thought of suicide — a straightforward question like that can be the push they needed to open up about their feelings. Stay calm and listen to your child's feelings as they open up before you offer your own opinion. This means holding back from immediately giving them advice, asking questions, and reflecting on their answers.
Regardless of your child's response, you should always respond in a nonjudgmental way. An empathetic and validating response from you could be the difference between suffering alone or seeking help for your child. You can say something like "It's really hard for me to hear that you've thought of ending your life, but I'm here for you and we'll get through this together," or "No matter what mistakes you might make in life, or what grades you get, your life is more important. Feelings come and go, but death is permanent. It's OK to feel guilt or sadness, but please let me know right away if you even have thoughts of ending your life. We'll get through this together."