When a community experiences a death by suicide, the loss can have a wide-ranging impact for days, months and even years following. Death by suicide is currently the 2nd leading cause of death among teenagers, next to [car] accidents (CDC, 2018). In 2017, 2 out of every 100 teenagers made suicide attempts serious enough to require medical treatment; 7 out of 100 attempted suicide (CDC, 2019). The Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated mental health challenges among our youth.
While a tragic loss can be difficult to grasp, there are ways we can help our kids cope. Our colleagues at NAMI NH offer many resources that you can find here.
SAMSHA offers these age-appropriate tips on speaking with your child about a loss by suicide.
We also offer a series of downloadable handouts that you can find here.
As we all know, children respond and cope each in their own unique way. They don’t yet know how to grieve, so parents are in the position of both needing to give them the space to do so while being present and keeping them supported. It’s important that we as adults remain calm, compassionate, provide a safe environment for the child, and listen to what they say.
Some general tips on speaking about suicide:
• Try to avoid using “commit” or “committed” – suicide is stigmatized and using language that implies the person did something wrong can shame other people away from help-seeking.
• The term “completed suicide” can also imply that something was successful.
• The use of “died by or of suicide” or “took their own life” is encouraged.
For more detailed information, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers this in depth publication Children, Teens and Suicide Loss.
Your child’s Primary Care Provider is your initial contact in availing yourself of mental health care for them. Your insurance card may also have an (800) number listed on the back that you can call to arrange for care.
The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester offers Child and Adolescent Services in addition to a Mobile Crisis Unit that can be reached at 1(800)688-3544.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is free and available 24/7/365 at 1(800)273-8255.
The Crisis Text Line is also free 24/7/365 support by texting HOME to 741741.
The Trevor Project provides free crisis intervention and support to LGBTQ youth and can be reached 24/7/365 at 1(866)488-7386.