Talking To Kids About Suicide

I know, it’s something we don’t want to discuss with our children. I hate that we have to. It’s something that’s been on my mind lately, and today I found myself researching how to bring up this topic of conversation. You know how you hear about something happening, and it’s horrible and tragic and, thank God, rare? And then a week or so later, it happens again? Two suicides in the families or friend circles of people I know in two weeks. And then today, the news that another young Hollywood actor took his own life.

It got me thinking: we talk a lot about children and teen suicide prevention, bullying prevention, but there is little time spent thinking about suicide in adults. It’s as though we stop thinking about it. And yet, over half of all suicides occur in adult men, 25-65. This website lists many more facts, every one more chilling than the last. 1 in 65,000 children ages 10 to 14 commit suicide each year. There are three female suicide attempts for each male attempt.

And then there’s the fact that brings me around to all this: children on the autism spectrum were recently shown to have suicidal thoughts more often than neurotypical kids.

My own son has said in the past, when very angry with us, “I hate my life.” What if he decides to end it someday, not understanding the consequences of that choice? He has cognitive delays, it’s entirely possible that he could decide that’s the way out and not “get” that it’s permanent. This terrifies me.

And so it’s a concept I’ve hidden from both the kids: that it’s possible to end your own life. They don’t know there is such a thing. I don’t want them to know. I don’t want them to ever think that’s an option. But how long can we hide it from them? I know it’s something we need to talk about, someday, before they learn it somewhere or make the connection in a moment of anger or depression or hopelessness that there is a way out besides just waiting for the pain to ease.

There’s the “It Gets Better” project for LGBT teens and it’s a wonderful thing, but the advice applies to everyone. And yet, what I want more than anything for my own kids is that they never feel the kind of pain that leads one to think about that.

Which isn’t possible, so back to the research I go. Except first, my son wants to enjoy a simple afternoon lounging in his kiddie pool in the late summer sunshine.


About Kerrie Strong

Years ago, I chose to suppress my creative side in favor of a career (or two, or three) in science. This blog is filled with exercises intended to reverse the atrophy of my right brain. I hope you enjoy my ramblings.
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