Would you know how to respond if a classmate committed suicide at your child's school?
The tragic news of three teenagers from the same Massachusetts high school committing suicide leads to the troubling question: What should we say to kids if, or even before, it happens to one of their peers? Dr. Peter Gutierrez, president of the American Association of Suicidology, talks about the scary idea of suicide being contagious.
- Un-glamorize it: "Kids see people are sad and paying a lot of attention to this event. An adolescent mind thinks, 'If I kill myself I will get that attention
too.' The vital fact they're missing is that when they're dead, they
won't be enjoying that attention," Dr. Gutierrez says.
- Be prepared: Moms should be ready for their kids to ask tough questions. If you don't know the answer, don't be afraid to say, "I don't know." Kids don't expect you to have all the answers.
- Keep talking: Dr. Gutierrez stresses having many talks with your child if a suicide occurs. Ask your kids how they're feeling and if they've ever thought about killing themselves. Let them know it's OK to be sad and even angry at the person who died.
Teens' initial reaction to a death can be strong, but if they are sad and weepy for several months, your child may benefit from professional counseling. Dr. Gutierrez recommends calling the National Lifeline at 1800.273.TALK. for local resources and support groups in your area.