When the Worst Has Happened: Talking to Youth About Suicide

When the worst has happened and someone has lost a friend or loved one to suicide there is little that can be said to comfort them. When explaining the suicide to a child or adolescent, provide truthful information, encourage questions, and offer loving reassurance. Talking honestly about suicide does not give others the idea to take their own lives. In fact, understanding mental illness and suicide helps surviving family members to be watchful about their own health, and to take preventative steps when something is wrong.

  • Reassure children that they are not responsible, and that nothing they said or did caused anyone else to take their life.
  • Be prepared to talk about the suicide multiple times during the first days and weeks, and later throughout the child’s life.
  • Consider a children’s bereavement support group for your child if they are having difficulty adjusting. Learn more about these groups through the Dougy National Center for Grieving Children and Families.

For more information about coping with loss, click here.

From American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, here are 10 Things You Can Do for Yourself in the Aftermath of a Suicide Loss

  1. Know that everyone grieves in his or her own way and at his or her own pace. There is no timeline or set rhythm for healing.
  2. Be kind to yourself and be gentle with yourself.
  3. Eat nutritiously and get sufficient rest.
  4. Exercise: walk, run, swim, cycle, etc.
  5. Head outdoors and spend time in nature.
  6. Give yourself permission to seek professional help—individual and/or family therapy or counseling—and, if applicable to you, call on your personal faith to help you as well.
  7. Learn more about the experience of suicide loss by reading the stories of those who are further along in their grief journey.
  8. Join a support group or online community for suicide loss survivors.
  9. Participate in walks and events such as International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.
  10. Get involved with the survivor loss community by volunteering with an organization such as AFSP.

In a crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

From American Foundation for Suicide Prevention  with additional information from Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE).

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