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Talking with Your Kids About Suicide

Talking with Your Kids About Suicide

By: Ashley Spencer, LCPC

mother with hand on teen daughters shoulder talking on couch mental health conversation suicide

September is Suicide Awareness month. It is very difficult to talk to your children and teens about suicide, whether you are concerned about them or concerned about their peers. We wanted to provide some information to help ease the discomfort. Talking to your children and teens about suicide can help save a life!


Here are some Truths and Myths about suicide:

Truth or Myth?

Asking someone if they are suicidal or if they have a plan, gives someone the idea to kill themselves.

Myth! The opposite is true. Asking someone directly about their suicidal thoughts, plans and intent will often lower their anxiety level. By asking questions, you are showing concern. This may allow the person with suicidal thoughts to feel less lonely or isolated, and likely open about how they are feeling to get support and help.

Truth or Myth?

There is nothing you can do if someone is considering suicide.

Myth! Most suicide crises are time-limited and based on unclear thinking. Persons attempting suicide are generally looking for a solution or an escape. They generally do not see any other solutions. It is also important to note that children and adolescents are more apt to act impulsively to kill themselves rather than a thought-out plan.

Truth or Myth?

Suicide happens without warning.

Myth! Studies show that a suicidal person generally gives clues and warnings regarding their suicidal intentions. It is important to be vigilant of how a person is behaving and what they are saying. Ask a loved one if they are having thoughts of killing themselves If they are showing you clues.

Truth or Myth?

Suicide occurs across all classes of people.

Truth! Suicide does not discriminate between classes of individuals. Suicide is represented throughout society.


Symptoms to watch out for: 
•    Isolation
•    Mood changes atypical for adolescent or child 
•    Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
•    Preoccupation with death
•    Talking about wanting to give up or not live anymore
•    Decreased participation with friends or stopping activities of enjoyment
•    Sudden decline in school work
•    Stopped planning for the future, expressing hopelessness about the future

Contributing factors to suicide:
•    Rejection and loss
•    Questioning of gender and/ or sexuality
•    Exposure to a traumatic event or violence
•    Access to firearms
•    A family history of suicide attempts or completion
•    Being bullied
•    Level of impulsivity
•    Predisposition to a psychiatric illness
•    Drug/ alcohol abuse

If you are noticing some signs and symptoms, here are some direct questions to ask:
•    I noticed you have not been spending time with your friends or family lately (or other symptoms/ behaviors you have noticed). How have you been feeling? Have you been feeling sad lately?
•    Are you thinking about ending your life? - or -
•    Are you thinking about killing yourself? 
o    Do you have a plan or are you thinking about ways you would kill yourself? 
o    Do you intend to act on that plan? 

These are tough questions to ask! Stay Calm, don’t panic!

 Validate the child’s feelings (“That must be so difficult, I’m sorry you feel that way”) and give hope (“we can get you help so you don’t have to feel this way.”)
Stay Calm and Curious (you’re gathering information). No Judging. No Preaching. No Fixing. No Guilting.

Remember, asking these questions does not put the idea of suicide into a person’s head!

If your child answers yes to these questions and they have plan and/ or you are concerned about the imminent safety of your child:

1.    Stay with them, do not leave them alone.
2.    Please contact 911
3.    OR take your child to the nearest emergency department if it is safe for you to transport your child.

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health including changes in behavior, mood, and safety, please reach out to your general pediatrician at Annapolis Pediatrics so that we may provide you with help!

If you believe your family member has a medical or psychiatric emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.


In addition, here are some Crisis Hotline contacts:

  • 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline - Call or text 988, anywhere in the US, to chat with a caring counselor.
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline (24/7) 1.800.273.8255 
  • Anne Arundel County Crisis Response System 410.768.5522 
  • Maryland Crisis Youth Hotline 1.800.422.0009 
  • AACPS Student Safety Hotline 1.877.676.9854


Watch our video "Suicide Risks and Prevention" from our Licensed Clinical Pediatric Counselor, Ashley Spencer.