Trusted Resources for Dealing with Suicide
A completed suicide is always a tragedy no matter the age of the victim. A life cut short in such a manner is devastating and traumatic, hard to understand and frightening.
Teen suicide, unfortunately, is not as rare as we sometimes think:
* The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports it is the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24.
* One in 11 high school students makes a suicide attempt in a given 12 month period.
* There are no official statistics, but it is estimated there are 25 non-fatal attempts for each death by suicide.
Helping your child deal with a completed suicide is of paramount importance. The American Association of Suicidology, estimates that each suicide leaves at least six people it its wake. But add to that the incubator effect of being in the same school and social circles, combined with the instant communications now available through Facebook and texting, and you have an unstable situation that could become exponentially more difficult.
Even if your child only peripherally knew the teen who committed suicide, it is still jarring, upsetting and confusing. Suicide is abrupt and violent. Feelings of survivor’s guilt are common and may not go away in a few days, weeks or even months. Be patient, kind, loving – and most of all, be a presence in their lives. Adolescents always need adults, but especially in times of crisis. School administrators, teachers and counselors are an excellent resource, but the greatest responsibility is yours. Be attuned your child’s behavior; as the parent, you may be the first to notice any changes.
Ways to help your teen cope effectively with a peer’s suicide.
1. Let them know that life is always worth living – no matter what is going on in a particular moment. As an adult, you have perspective. You may find the information at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline very useful. They have a special section just for young adults. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center are both valuable resources as well.
If you feel your teen is in immediate danger, call 911. The Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is available 24/7.
2. Get the facts about the situation that has just occurred. Share them with your teens. Rumors will be circulating. To whatever extent possible, accurate information will help make sense of things.
3. Be calm. Teens will take their cue from you. If you are anxious, you will make them more so. They are also more likely to open up to you if you do not panic and are composed.
4. Be respectful of them by talking about your own sad feelings. In this way, you are serving as a role model for them. Teens need to know that it is fine to have feelings particularly compassionate feelings.
5. Explain that a suicide rarely occurs in a vacuum. There usually are compounding factors such as conflict, a loss of some kind, or mental illness. Being the target of bullying can absolutely be a contributing factor. Make it clear that we are all responsible for good behavior towards each other, and that standing by without going to an authority for help is not acceptable. Bullying is a prosecutable offense in Connecticut. You can find out more at www.stopbullying.gov.
6. Talk to your teens about how they would like to say goodbye to the teen who died and how they might want to honor and help the family and close friends. Bringing over meals, doing yard work, helping with young children, taking care of pets –not only can these can all be of great assistance, they can help your child heal.
September is Suicide Prevention Month and September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. These have been designated to try and stop this gut-wrenching, unnecessary tragedy from occurring. Be informed and be proactive. Most of all, explain to your child that the best way to help is if we all take on the responsibility of being good to one another. Kindness is perhaps the greatest healer—and one we all have the ability to control.