Earlier this month, I was privileged to have an insightful conversation with Dr. Stacey Freedanthal, Ph.D, LCSW, a sought-after expert on understanding suicide and the author of Loving Someone with Suicidal Thoughts: What Family, Friends, and Partners Can Say and do.
During our talk, which aired live on Facebook, Dr. Freedanthal provided valuable tools for recognizing signs of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues in our children. She also encouraged parents and caregivers to establish an open dialogue with their children that enables them to feel seen and heard.
Here are some of my top takeaways from our conversation.
Keep guns out of the home. Easy access to firearms is a leading cause of deaths by suicide, increasingly among young people.
Talk to your kids, or find them a trusted adult they feel comfortable with enough to share their concerns, worries and feelings with. This may include a fellow family member, a mental health professional or a combination of several individuals.
Let your child know they will not be judged or blamed if they have suicidal thoughts or are thinking of harming themselves. Too often, children won’t speak up because they are scared of getting in trouble or letting their family down.
Be mindful of how you speak about suicide. Children take in what we say, and if they hear us referring to someone who committed or attempted suicide as selfish or attention-seeking, they may not feel OK coming to us if they are considering ending their own lives.
Understand help is available. 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is an excellent resource not only for immediate help for those in a critical state, but for those who are concerned for a loved one.
Keep talking. Though it may seem counterintuitive talking to your kids about suicide, and even asking them if they ever think about ending their lives, won’t cause them to want to commit suicide. Instead this will let them know they are encouraged to share what’s on their mind and know they are supported.
If you would like to watch the full, edited interview, please click on the image below to watch the video on YouTube.