This past Saturday, September 10th was World Wide Suicide Prevention Day and in the days leading up to Saturday there were any number of news pieces bringing much needed attention to this epidemic. For instance, did you know that suicide claims 4000 lives in Canada? As disturbing as this statistic is what is more distressing is that 1 in 5 teens have considered suicide and, that girls are twice as likely to think about it than boys. I found this alarming but not because I am a parent of teenagers but, because our kids are our nation’s future; if 1 in 5 feel that the world they live in is so dark and so hopeless that they consider putting an end to it all then our future is just as bleak. All of these news stories paled however in comparison to the piece Global aired about 18 year old suicide survivor Chelsea Hall. In the moment that piece aired that one Canadian teen in five had a name and a face. Chelsea tried to commit suicide for the first time three days after her fifteenth birthday, and looking back she is amazed she has made it this far. Chelsea maintains that whatever is going on most teens never tell their parents, probably because we (as parents) attribute these feelings to hormones, or the melodramatic tendencies of the average teenager. Teenagers will first tell their friends, and it was Chelsea’s friend who helped saved her life by telling her parents about what her friend had confided in her.
As parents we need to be more in tune with our children:
1.) Know your facts: Suicide is a problem, it exists and it can happen to your family no one is immune.
2.) Recognize the warning signs: Kids in crisis give our warning signs, pay attention! Changes in personality and behaviour like withdrawal, irritability and anxiety. A drastic change in sleep patterns oversleep to escape, or long bouts of insomnia
3.) Familiarize yourself with the risk factors: Kids that are bullied, are experiencing life altering change or loss are more likely to consider suicide. Mental illness treated and untreated add to this.
4.) Familiarize yourself with and take protective measures: Sharpen up your problem solving skills, maintain strong positive connections and support positive social connections. Respectfully and discreetly monitor their social media sites as well as their friends.
5.) Talk to them candidly about suicide. The conversation starts with us, kids are fearful of our reaction to what they tell us. We more often than not react negatively and judgmentally and they feel our love is conditional rather than unconditional. We must always strive to remain calm, positive and supportive.
Our young are suffering and we are not listening; cries for help are passed off for juvenile cries for attention. As parents we have to step up our game! We have to reinforce in our kids the belief that they are valued, and they are loved whatever the circumstance; and while we don’t hold all the answers together we will find the solution. We need to start the dialogue between our kids and we need to start listening, and if our kids have friends who have contemplated suicide they need to get that friend help–because their silence could be deadly.