Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 10 to 24_knowing the often subtle
warning signs plays a crucial role in prevention.
Suicide might not feel like a family-friendly dinner conversation topic, but perhaps it should be!
Avoiding the topic won’t help them learn how to get help if they need it. One of the
misconceptions about the discussion of suicide is that talking about it causes kids and teens to
think about it. The truth is that parents can never know for certain whether or not a child
experiences suicidal thinking if they are too afraid to ask the question. It is complicated;
impulsive and associated with feelings of confusion, sadness, or anger. The so-called “red
flags” people are cautioned to look for can be subtle in young children_and of course this goes
for any age.
TRUST YOUR GUT…NOTICE behavioral changes that aren’t a one-time issue…take note:
>CHANGES in sleeping habits (too much/little, insomnia, or night wakings)
>CHANGES in eating habits (overeating or eating too little)
>WITHDRAWING from family/friends (social isolation)
>PSYCHOSOMATIC SYMPTOMS (head/stomachaches; those that can’t be explained
CHANGES AT SCHOOL
>DROP in academic performance >DECREASED interaction with teachers/school kids
>LACK of interest in school >School REFUSAL > LOSS of interest in daily activities
(playing, sports, extracurricular activities)
PREOCUPATION with DEATH
>About THEMSELVES >FREQUENT QUESTIONS about death >Statements about dying or
what will happen if the child dies (ex: ” You won’t miss me when I die, I wish I was dead,
I won’t bother you anymore when I’m gone.” >Fascinated with horror/murder
movies/books/songs and have admiration for ‘heroic worship’ of actors/singers who portray the
role of guns, death, morbid characteristics.
FEELINGS of HOPELESSNESS:
> About the Future >” Nothing can be done to improve their outcome OR No one who can help”
Some folks give away their favorite possessions or tell others who should get their favorite
WRITING or DRAWING about death or suicide:
Young children and some adults struggle to verbalize intense emotions but often draw or write
about them…poems, stories, artwork should be EVALUATED.
SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN MOOD: A shift from calmness to aggressive, withdrawn, or very
anxious / trying to be a perfectionist is a sign.
>PREVIOUS suicide attempt
>EXPERIENCING a LOSS (pets, friends/ relatives, ‘heroes’, divorce of family discord)
>FAMILY HISTORY of attempts; VIOLENCE or WITNESSING VIOLENCE
>ACCESS to FIREARMS; IMPUSIVITY; ACUTE REJECTION
>FEELINGS of HOPELESSNESS; FEELING LIKE a BURDEN
TO ALL PARENTS, RELATIVES, NEIGHBORS, CO-WORKERS, ETC:
ASK questions like,
“Are you feeling depressed/sad/thinking about killing or hurting yourself?” BE SPECIFIC, BE
GENTLE, DON’T GIVE UP OR GIVE IN …TRY AGAIN WITHOUT NAGGING and NOT
DEMANDING or having them feel guilty but have them feel LOVED.
With PROPER support in place, there is the hope of working through the feelings and triggers that
result in suicidal thinking and learning effective coping skills to deal with difficult life situations.
Next month, we will give more specific conversations/suggestions and case studies. WE GOT
TO KEEP THE COMMUNICATION AND LOVE ONGOING!!!
Brenda M. Jelks-Hutchinson