Talking About Suicide

People believe that suicide is a distressing topic, and one that is unlikely to happen to them, so they avoid talking about it. Talking about suicide in a caring way can increase hope and encourage help-seeking behaviours in young people.

Discussing physical health problems isn’t shameful.  Talking about suicide should be treated with the same consideration. People experiencing emotional difficulties are often relieved to have the subject raised by someone else in a caring way. It opens the door to having a frank conversation.

Suicide is not an easy topic to discuss, but being able to talk openly about it is beneficial and is something young people need to know about. Most importantly, they need to know that they can seek help should they ever experience depression, sadness, or suicidal thoughts.

Be informed

If you want to talk about mental health conditions, make sure you are informed about them in advance. Visit Coolminds for information on mental health conditions.

Be honest and direct

It is okay to admit that suicide can be difficult to discuss. Talking about your feelings on the subject will help the person you care about to open up as well. You can ask direct questions, such as:

  • “Have any of your friends dealt with suicide?”
  • “Do you know anyone who has ever made a suicide attempt?”
  • “Do you ever have any feelings of anxiety?”

Be supportive

Reassure the young person that you care and are always there to support. Let them know that they can come to you anytime, regardless of what they’re going through. Let them know that there are other people they can turn to if needed: teachers, counsellors, close friends, relatives, doctors and nurses.

Even if you aren’t sure quite what to say, the important thing is that you say something. Let them know that you are concerned and why. They may be experiencing anxiety, depression or experiencing suicidal thoughts. By starting a conversation and showing your concern and willingness to support them, you’re giving your young person an opportunity to share what they’re going through. This can make all the difference. 

Your interest shows them that you’re willing to talk about their mental health – or any problems or difficulties they’re going through – whenever they’re ready. 

Be an active listener

Be sure to listen and respond appropriately. If you over react, they may not come back to you in a time of need. If you under react, the teen may not think that you care. Respond meaningfully, thoughtfully, and truthfully.

Be observant

A natural way to open a conversation is to talk about what you observe in the young person and reflect it back to them.  In a non-judgmental way, let them  know that you’ve noticed a change in mood, behaviour or demeanour, for example:

  • “You don’t seem to be hanging out with friends as much as usual.”
  • “You don’t seem so interested in an activity or hobby you used to enjoy.”
  • “I’m really worried about you. Can we talk?”
  • “I’ve been noticing that you are (sad / distant / not yourself). I am really concerned. Can we talk about what’s on your mind?”
  • “You haven’t been acting like yourself lately. Let’s talk about what’s going on.”
  • “You say you’re fine, but I feel there’s something you’re not talking about.  Can you tell me what it is?”

By listening and being supportive and observant, you can help remove the stigma about suicide and encourage someone you care about to seek help.