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Suicide & Youth: Advice for Parents During National Suicide Prevention Week

Posted on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 by UVM Health Network - CVMC

National Suicide Prevention Week occurs this year from September 9-15, including World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.

This is an important time to focus attention on what remains a serious public health concern that all too frequently remains hidden.

Here are some myths and facts about suicide that are important to remember:

MYTH: Suicide is rare.

FACT: Suicide is the second leading cause of death globally for 15-29-year olds (World Health Organization). In Vermont, 11% of high school students had made a suicide plan in 2017 (VT Youth Risk Behavior Survey).

MYTH: Suicide rates in children and adolescents are worse than ever.

FACT: While one suicide is too many, the rate of completed suicide actually dropped from the early 1990s, especially for boys, up until about 5 years ago. Since then, the rate has unfortunately been rising again for reasons that are not completely understood (Center for Disease Control).

MYTH: Suicide attempts occur without warning.

FACT: 50%-75% of people who attempt suicide told someone about their intent before it happened (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)

Some tips for parents include the following:

  • Just ask. This sounds simple, but many youth will tell you how they feel if asked.
  • Know the warning signs that indicate the possibility of a child that is seriously depressed and may be contemplating suicide.
  • Know some of the suicide triggers such as relationship problems, bullying, and substance use.
  • Offer hope. While expressions like “cheer up” or “smile” can be counterproductive, it can be useful to reassure your child that they can get through this difficult time and are loved by many people around them.
  • Encourage your child and adolescent to engage in wellness activities that can improve mood. Offer to do some of these things with them.
  • Encourage your child to speak to a responsible adult if they have any concern that a friend or peer may be thinking of suicide. It could literally save their life.
  • Take steps to make lethal means of suicide unavailable. Many attempts are impulsive so having easy access to something like a gun can mean the difference between a suicide attempt and a suicide death.
  • Do not leave acutely suicidal individuals alone.
  • Seek professional help if you have any concerns about depression or suicide.

Let’s also try to change some of our language about suicide. Completed suicides are not “successful” and people die by suicide rather than “commit” suicide (which implies a crime).

Together, we can join our voices to make preventing suicide a public health priority.

Resources and links

David C. Rettew, MD, is a child psychiatrist at the UVM Medical Center and director of the Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Residency Program. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter

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