06 Sep Tough Talks #14: Suicide
Being an Advocate
Contrary to what many might think, it’s actually a good idea to talk to your teen about suicide, whether they are among the at-risk category or not. Not only will starting that conversation help you stand out as an advocate, showing you truly care, but it can also be an important way to tell your teen what the warning signs are so that they can be more aware of their own behaviors and those of their friends as well. By showing up advocating for teen mental health resources, you set an example of understanding, empathy, and care, demonstrating that you are there to support them and encouraging them to become advocates, too.
Starting the Conversation
Getting started can feel scary, awkward, and intimidating. But it is more than worth the challenge to show up for your teen and promote their welfare. Rather than bluntly open the conversation with something like “let’s talk about your mental health,” find a time and space that is comfortable for them, where and when they can feel safe and ready to open up. Ask something like “How are you doing?” or “How are you feeling?” and let your teen guide the conversation.
To help your teen feel more comfortable, don’t be afraid to get vulnerable. Open up about your own mental health. Share that your life isn’t always perfect and share the ideas, mantras, mentalities, and resources that have helped you get through it. Many parents might feel inclined to deny that their teens are experiencing traumatic emotions because it is just too painful to realize. Focus on resisting this urge and being willing to hear the darkest and most difficult emotions your teen is experiencing so that you can be there to help them.
When it feels right, and your teen is speaking with vulnerability about their emotions, support the conversation with gentle, leading questions. If your teen reveals any warning signs, it’s time to ask them if they have considered self-harm. Be sure to discuss the topic in a non-judgmental way. Ask questions like when, how, and why? Clarify if they have ever thought about suicide as an option for themselves or if they have created a plan. If your teen admits that they have suicidal thoughts, get them the help they need with teen suicide prevention resources. If they don’t admit it but you have a feeling that they aren’t being fully honest, trust your instincts and don’t hesitate to reach out to the appropriate mental health or emergency services.
Teens need someone and something to turn to when they need it most. Whether or not your teen is or seems to be at risk, exhibiting warning signs, or having suicidal thoughts, you should always provide them with teen mental health resources that they can use to help themselves or a friend who needs it. We encourage you to do your research with your teen’s situation in mind in order to find the resources that are the best fit for them. To get you started, be sure to teach your teen about the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. This number is available 24/7 for confidential mental health crisis services. Call or text 988 or use the chat function at: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/. To learn more about this resource, you can read our blog post here.
At Tilly’s Life Center, we believe that many teens struggle with their mental health and need advocates that are there to show them the possibility of a better future. Our mission is to support teens with teen mental health resources that enable them to reach their full potential as the happiest, healthiest, most productive individuals that they can be. In order to help, we provide a social and emotional learning curriculum for teens to promote better mental health and wellness. To learn more, visit us at www.tillyslifecenter.org.