It’s normal that as a parent, you’re afraid to talk about suicide to your children. But it’s important to know that avoiding the topic can lead to more harm than good, and the idea that talking about suicide can increase its risk is not true, especially if done correctly.
Chances are, your child will experience a loss due to suicide at some point in their lives anyway, so break the barrier by talking about it. Here are some tips:
- Stop the stigma. When someone dies of cancer, you immediately know to tell someone that they died of cancer. The same approach should be done when someone dies of suicide, even when talking to a child.
- Be honest. When you tell a child that someone died of suicide and they follow up with questions, be as truthful as you can. Tell them their brain was suffering from an illness or that you don’t know why they died. It’s okay to be honest about it. Hiding the truth will only backfire and can ruin your relationship.
- Be careful with your word choices. You don’t want to use words like “selfish” and “weak” when talking to a child about suicide. Suicide is not selfish, and living with a mental illness requires a great deal of strength. Words are powerful, so choose them correctly so that you can help stop increasing the stigma.
Remember that talking about suicide will not make other people want to take their own lives, but rather do the opposite of that.