Back 2 School: How to have the conversation about suicide

Published: Aug. 12, 2019 at 1:42 PM CDT
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Suicide is a difficult topic to address with children, but a therapist with Prevea gave Action 2 News This Morning advice on having what could be a life-saving conversation.

The State of Wisconsin says youth suicide rates in Wisconsin doubled from 2007 to 2015.

Prevea Behavioral Care's Lisa Schubring says parents should watch for signs that children may be having suicidal thoughts. Those signs include:

--Decline in social activity

--Spending more time alone in their room

--Falling grades

--Changes in sleep

--Changes in appetite

--Changes in mood

Schubring recommends checking text messages and social media as children sometimes share their feelings with peers before parents.

Don't wait to have the conversation. Schubring says adolescents can be impulsive.

"There's a myth if we talk about suicide we're going to give somebody the idea and that's absolutely not true," says Schubring. "The idea exists or it doesn't and we need to be bringing it up and discussing it."

Schubring recommends letting children know you care and asking them if they are OK.

Be there for them.

"Let's talk about emotions and let's not fix everything for our kids," she says. "It's OK for them to be sad. It's OK for them to be scared. We need to just sit with them and offer that empathy and that support. They just need that."

Schubring says it's an important conversation even if your children are not exhibiting signs of suicidal tendencies.

"There's a great opportunity to have a discussion with your children that if you ever think that way, please come to us. We don't want you to do that. That's not the answer. Just to have that conversation even if you're child is not behaving differently, so that children know at some point in time, if they do feel that way, they can come to somebody, talk to them and get help," says Schubring.

Schubring says parents can ask their family doctor for a referral to a behavioral health specialist.

A school counselor is also a good place to start. Teachers, coaches and family members can also help.

Let children know not to keep their feelings a secret.

Suicide prevention resources and hotlines:

Suicide Crisis Center: 920-436-8888

Police: 911

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Suicide hotline for Wisconsin Vets: 1-877-WAR-VETS

United Way referral: 211

SMS Emotional Support Line: Text HOPELINE to 741741

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