1. WHY? Suicide is no dark, hidden secret. The topic is in every kid’s face starting at an alarmingly young age. Television shows, books, magazines, newspaper covers, and detrimentally in the local obituary. Do not be afraid to talk to your kid about suicide because you think it is something they don’t know about, because the world has already informed them enough.
  2. HOW? JUST ASK. Ask them if they have talked about suicide in school. Ask them if they have ever watched the television series “13 Reasons Why” (most teens, even in middle school) have seen at least one of these episodes. Ask them what they thought about it. In the beginning, ask more than you tell. Spend more time actively listening to what they already know about suicide.
  3. WHY? You are not giving them any ideas they don’t already have. If you are afraid of the discussion about this topic to your teenager because you are afraid of giving them any ideas about suicide, the harsh truth is they have already thought about it. You are not giving them any ideas that they have not already thought about. If a person is depressed or unhappy, discussing their feelings openly and allowing them to express how they feel is one of the most helpful things you can do. Even if they have had suicidal thoughts, giving them permission to express those thoughts can relieve some of the anxiety and provide an avenue to recognize other ways to escape their pain and sadness.
  4. HOW?Tell the truth. Be honest with your kid, if you are concerned they may be depressed or considering suicide then simply tell them about this concern. Any teen that is contemplating suicide is truthfully seeking help and searching for attention from a loved one. It will not hurt your kid, by any means, to tell them what you observe from the outside.
  5. WHY? Statistics are alarming. According to The Parent Resource Program, suicide is the second leading cause of death in ages 10-24. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease…COMBINED! Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 3,470 attempts by young people grades 9-12. (The Jason Foundation)
  6. HOW? LISTEN. Another myth is that people who talk suicide won’t actually do it. False. Almost everyone who attempts or completes suicide has given signs through their words or behaviors. Do not ignore any type of suicide threat, no matter how small. Listen for statements like “You’ll be sorry when I am dead” or “I wish I was dead” or “I might as well kill myself”—no matter how casually or jokingly it is said, these may indicate signs of true suicidal feelings.
  7. WHY? No kid is not at risk of suicide. Gender, hormones, neighborhood, grade level, emotions, growth and development, judgments, environment…there is no way to determine who is at risk of suicide, which is why it is important to express a parent or guardian’s concern as early as possible. The truth is every kid is at risk for depression and suicide, therefore, it is the responsibility of loved ones to be a safety net and outlet for kids to express themselves.
  8. HOW? Seek a professional. As a parent or guardian, not all of us are certified psychiatrists or counselors. But thank God there are plenty of certified professionals that are available to help. If your child is not speaking to you about their emotions and you sense something is wrong, do not be afraid to send them to a counselor. Surprisingly, statistics show that teenagers are more likely to express themselves in front of strangers than to people they are closest. These people are certified for a reason, take advantage of these resources.
  9. WHY? They are not “just being a teenager.” The greatest myth of all is simply that they are acting this just because they are a teenager and that is what teenagers do. False. There is something deeper below the surface that is causing your child to act in different ways. Depression and anxiety are detrimentally true in a teenager’s life. Be mindful of their emotions and their actions, but most of all be willing to speak up when you see or sense the slightest of change in them.
  10. HOW? Talk and drive. On the way to school in the morning, on the way home from practice, picking them up from a friend’s house, or driving up to the mountains for the weekend. The average time spent driving in a car is often more than we would prefer, but it is these precious minutes that open the floor to conversation with your kid. Kids often are willing to be more vulnerable in their conversations in the car because they don’t have an adult staring straight at them, they do not feel as judged. These moments are the transition periods and often the time when kids are willing to process more. Take advantage of these precious moments in the car ride, you have nowhere else to be, so be present with your child.
  11. HOW? Listen to their actions. The actions, or lack thereof, of your teenager speak louder than their words. Are they isolating themselves? Are they closed off to emotions? Do they spend most of their time lost in the television, computer, or social media? Who are they hanging out with? Pay careful attention, without judgment, to the actions of your teenager. They may be hinting that something is wrong simply through change of routine or social life.
  12. HOW? Better safe than sorry. If you keep a gun(s) at your home, store them safely and securely or move all firearms elsewhere. This is simply a warning and easy prevention. If your child knows you have firearms in the house, then make sure they do not know where and they do not know how to access them. Fact: Suicide by firearm among American youth topped a 12-year high in 2013, with most deaths involving a gun belonging to a family member. Any of these deaths may have been prevented if a gun was not available.
  13. WHY? Because every life is worth living. In the end, it comes down to purpose and it comes down to love. Remind your child how much you love them and how much you care about them. Teenagers face many tribulations from school, friends, relationships, and their growth and development in general. They need to be reminded on a regular basis how important their life is and why you care so much.

You can reach the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255