One myth that persists is that if someone is considering taking his or her life and talks about it, that engaging that person in conversation will increase the probability of suicide.
That’s simply not true, says Dr. Gregory Plemmons, author of a new study on teens and suicide. In fact, a parent can help prevent suicide by keeping communication open. He says that talking has never been “never been shown” to increase the risk of a teen taking his or her life. He also suggests that talking to a family doctor or other health professional can help.
The trend that the study revealed, covering kids aged 5 to 17 over the years 2008 to 2015, is troubling. During that time, the number doubled of kids hospitalized for suicidal thoughts and/or attempting suicide.
But another researcher said that one factor that may have affected this dramatic increase is that there are many more resources for a troubled teen than there were in 2008 when the study began. However, this is sometimes cancelled out by the fact that there’s been a dramatic increase in public bullying on the Internet and other emerging risk factors.
What should you watch for in your teen? If he or she becomes isolated (especially if accompanied by a noticeable increase in use of electronic devices), doesn’t seem to enjoy activities or people that she enjoyed in the past, or if eating or sleeping habits change, it’s time for a conversation.
Show and say your love for your child. Ask direct questions about the changes that you have seen. Ask if he or she is thinking about suicide or other means of self-harm. Tell him or her that you want to understand and listen, not judge. And suggest a counselor or family doctor or other trusted adult if he or she would be more comfortable talking with others.