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How Do I Talk to My Child About Suicide?

Not long ago we got a call from a mom who heard that her child had been talking about taking their life. She said that didn't really sound like her child, who was a happy kid, but still she worried. We understood her concern and her Family Support Partner (FSP) was able to talk her through how to have that conversation and get them help. But we've learned that if one parent has a concern many other families across the state are likely to have the same worry? So, our team reached out to experts across the state and together we created, "How do I talk to my child about suicide?"

An image of the tip sheet in English on one side and Spanish on the other.

We know this is not an easy topic for you to even think about, let alone discuss with your child. However, this is far too important to push off if you are concerned about them. One of the experts we worked with shared; “We never really know what’s going on with kids unless we ask. If we notice a child limping, we might ask if they got hurt or are in pain. From there, we can make a decision about how best to get them treatment. The same is true when we notice a child in emotional distress. Unless we ask if they’re having thoughts of suicide, we may never know and may not get them to the right resources for help.” – Rose Milani, Program Director, Pennsylvania Youth Suicide Prevention Project.

Every single one of the experts that we worked agreed that keeping the conversation as simple as possible is best for a child who may be struggling.

“Studies show that asking someone about suicide calmly and directly is a safe and effective approach that helps reduce their risk of suicide.” Dr. Perri Rosen, School Psychologist.

Perhaps you have heard the myth that asking your child about suicide will put that idea in their head. This is not the case at all, and we asked Milani to debunk it for our readers. “Asking your child directly if they are thinking about suicide is the most effective way to determine if they are at risk, and studies show that this will not put the idea in their head if it’s not there already.” – Rose Milani, Program Director, Pennsylvania Youth Suicide Prevention Project.

If you are concerned about your child, you are probably also overwhelmed with what to do and how to help. This short and simple tip sheet can give you conversation tips and starters and a clearly defined “next step.” This can be very helpful for someone who is already in a stressful situation. It also details several valuable supports that are there for your child and for you.

“You and your child deserve the support you may need. Asking your child about suicidal thoughts and getting connected to resources assists the family through the crisis and in getting connected to long term supports.” – Rose Milani, Program Director, Pennsylvania Youth Suicide Prevention Project.

We hope you never need to use this tip sheet but if you do it's available in our Helpful Resources tab both under Tip Sheets and Suicide Awareness. You can also find the Spanish version here. And as always, our Family Support Partners are here and ready to help!


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