Mental Health Series

What Parents Need to Know About Suicide Prevention

In this session, parents will gain an understanding of the dynamics surrounding suicide, including its underlying reasons, warning signs, and appropriate responses. We’ll explore what to say, what not to say, and where someone who might be contemplating suicide can go to seek help.

By addressing suicide openly and empathetically, parents can de-escalate suicidal ideation and guide their children toward appropriate support and intervention. Unwavering support and understanding are essential in helping children navigate life’s challenges.

Key Takeaways for Parents


Understanding Suicide Ideation:

Recognizing the signs of suicide ideation, which may range from thoughts of being a burden to contemplating methods of self-harm, is essential for early intervention.

Prefrontal Cortex Development:

Understanding that brain development continues into the mid-20s emphasizes the need for proactive parental involvement, as individuals may not always recognize or articulate their struggles.

Proactive Approach:

Instead of waiting for individuals to seek help, actively reach out to provide support and assistance. Initiating conversations about mental health can be empowering and life-saving.


Family is Hope:

Amidst challenges, maintaining hope within the family unit is crucial. Parents and caregivers play a pivotal role in instilling hope and preventing suicide.

Peer-to-Peer Support:

Programs like Hope Squad, which facilitate peer-to-peer support in schools, highlight the importance of adolescents talking to each other about mental health issues.

Shift in Influence:

Recognize that during the middle school years, friends may have a significant influence on children, sometimes more than family. Understanding this shift can help parents support their children effectively.

Building Resilience:

Allowing children to experience and learn from failures fosters resilience, which is crucial for mental well-being. Parents should resist the urge to constantly rescue their children from challenges.

Warning Signs:

Parents should be vigilant for both situational and behavioral warning signs of suicide risk, such as changes in behavior, academic performance, and emotional expressions.


Effective Communication:

When addressing suicidal thoughts or emotions, it's important to listen without judgment, validate feelings, and encourage open dialogue. Avoid dismissive statements and instead offer support, empathy, and hope.

What to Say, What NOT to Say, and Resources

Research indicates that discussing suicide does not implant the idea in someone’s mind. Instead, having the right conversation can help reduce suicidal thoughts.

What NOT to Say

  • “You don’t really mean that. You don’t really want to die.”
  • “Suicide is so selfish.”
  • “Things could be worse. It’s not that bad.”
    “Just get over it.”

What to Say and Do

  • Stay Calm – Don’t try to fix it.
  • Don’t Interrupt. Listen. Say two words for every hundred words your child says.
  • Respond like a friend would, say “Tell me more. I am here for you. I am listening…”
  • Validate and Encourage, saying things like “I’m sure this is really painful for you.”
  • Ask Questions. You won’t give them the idea of suicide. It’s already out there.

Ways to Get Help

  • 988, Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, 24/7 Call, Text, or Chat
  • 1-800-273-TALK(8255), National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  • 741741, Crisis Text Line, 24/7 mental health support via text message
  • National Alliance on Mental Health HelpLine M-F, 10am – 10pm ET