The importance of talking about suicide with your child

April 7, 2021

Suicide is a difficult topic to talk about, we know. But with suicide being the second leading cause of death among youth ages 15-24, the need to be open and honest is even greater. There is a common myth that by talking about suicide, you may plant the idea in someone’s head. However, studies have shown that by talking about suicide and using the direct language, the risk can be greatly decreased by youth who has been thinking about suicide. Many teens struggling with depression and suicidal thinking just want to be heard and feel connected to.

So, what do you do? First, it is important to know the warning signs and what to look out for when someone is thinking about suicide.

Warning Signs:

Not everyone shows the same signs that they are thinking about suicide, but below are common ones to look out for:

  1. Physical changes in appearance or hygiene
  2. Increase in alcohol or drug use
  3. Sudden drop in grades
  4. Social withdrawal
  5. Talking about suicide or death
  6. Risky or reckless behaviors (such as reckless driving or unsafe sex)
  7. Self-harm behaviors such as cutting
  8. Talking about feeling hopeless or having nothing to live for
  9. Researching suicide methods and/or acquiring weapons

It is important to ask them directly, “Are you thinking about suicide or killing yourself?”.

This sounds scary to say but being open, honest, and direct will help decrease the stress they may be feeling in thinking this way and be more open to help.

These next steps may help in talking with your child or teen about suicide:

  1. Listen nonjudgmentally. Be open and try to avoid instantly shutting down the conversation when you feel scared or worried.
  2. Be compassionate. Try to be empathetic towards what they may be thinking or feeling instead of talking about your own experiences or what you think they should be feeling.
  3. Prioritize safety. Discuss ways that they have been thinking about killing themselves and lock up any means such as guns, medications, and sharp objects and do not leave them alone.

If your child or teen is in immediate danger and you cannot safely develop a plan for support, call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room or crisis center.

Additional resources that may assist you in developing a safe plan or discussing other ways to seek support may include:

  1. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  2. Crisis TextLine, Text “Home” to 741741
  3. The TrevorLifeline for LGBTQ Youth, 1-866-488-7386

For more information, please visit the American Psychological Association at For local resources on finding the appropriate mental health support, please visit and search for your local Community Services Board here:

Do you need support?

Are you or someone you know thinking of suicide?

Call or Text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

If you have an immediate medical emergency, call 911