Speaking to children about suicide without making it a taboo Speaking to children about suicide without making it a taboo

Getting held back a grade, showing low self-esteem or excessive feelings of guilt, drug use, intolerance to failure and bullying can all be warning signs of suicidal tendencies in children and youth.

These warning signs were included in a recent report released by the Mental Health Department from the University of La Sabana in Bogota. This report indicated that with children, depending on their age group, suicide must be addressed in an open, spontaneous and natural way. While it should not be considered something positive, it should also not be considered a taboo.

Yahira Guzmán, psychiatrist and head of the of this university’s Mental Health Department, states that suicide, “…must not be glorified. When discussing this issue, parents or caretakers should back up what they say with complete information on prevention and risk factors, while avoiding being too explicit or providing too much detail.” The following seven tips can help you know how to talk about suicide at home.

  1. If one of your child’s or teenager’s friends or classmates commits or attempts suicide, address the issue the in an open and natural way. How do they feel? What do they think? What have they heard? These are some of the questions that should be asked bluntly.
  2. Do not discuss suicide with them just because it was in the news, or because they heard about it on the radio or read about it in the newspaper. The key is to address the topic from its root causes and to work with your child so that they understand the reasons that led their classmate or friend to hurt themselves.
  3. Control what your child or teenager sees on the Internet.
  4. Have a relationship with your children that is based on good communication. The key is to establish trust. It is important to show them that every poor decision has a lesson to teach.
  5. If you notice that your child tried to hurt themselves, do not ask them how they tried to do it. Instead, ask them what led them to make that decision.
  6. Teach your child to see failure as an opportunity. Explain that it is normal to experience emotional, financial, and relationship hardships in life. This is what builds their character and is what will help them to understand that self-harm is not necessary in order to overcome these hardships.
  7. Do not allow for medications, poisons, or fertilizers to be visibly accessible to children. If these are consumed by accident or intentionally, they can be lethal.