How to Be Vigilant about Suicide Prevention
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the mental health of children and teenagers. Many still struggle with depression even though some parts of life are back to “normal.” As a parent, knowing how to recognize the signs of suicide and knowing what to do is critical to suicide prevention.
What to Watch For
Students who are more at risk for suicide include those who have experienced the following:
- Previous suicide attempts
- Family members who have attempted or died by suicide
- Mental illness or family members who have a mental illness
- More isolation (e.g., isn’t able to return to in-person classes for whatever reason)
- Drugs or alcohol
- Struggles in school (e.g., drastic drop in performance, lower motivation or level of interest)
- Identifies as LGBTQ+
- Family stressors such as parent divorce or job loss
- Is a victim of bullying or cyberbullying
Other signs of suicide to watch for include the following:
- Language such as, “I feel like a burden,” or “I wish I were dead”
- Sudden improvement of mood after being depressed or withdrawn
- Change in hygiene habits
- Giving away prized possessions or looking for access to lethal means/making a plan.
- Decreased interest or energy level
- Drastic change in personality or irritability level
- Increased absences in school or dropping out of school
- Using substances such as alcohol or drugs.
What to Say
- Ask. Use “I” statements to ask how your children are doing. For example, “I noticed you seem to be in your room a lot instead of out with your friends like you usually are. Are you okay?”
- Listen. Let your children vent and let their feelings out. Maintain good eye contact and put away all distractions and judgement while you listen.
- Reframe. Summarize and repeat back what they told you. Ask them to expand on their feelings.
- Work together to brainstorm solutions. Let your children know that you are there to help them. If needed, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or a mental health professional for additional help.