How to Address Concerns of Suicide with Children

Montana is habitually one of the top three states for completed suicide in the country.  Over the last few years, suicide has become the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24.  Suicide is a scary thought for most parents, no one wants to think that this could happen to their child.

The good news is that with early intervention, it can be prevented.  We believe that the alarming suicide statistics can be combated through community, education and support for children and families.  In the following article, parent and Youth Mental Health First Aid instructor, Nicole Bergman, discusses what parents can do if they are concerned about their child.

Tip One: Learn the Warning Signs

Learn the warning signs for youth suicide.  Often times, typical adolescent development can overshadow some of the key warning signs of suicide.  Is the child able to work or attend school, carry out daily activities, or engage in satisfying relationships?

Some of the most common warning signs of suicide include:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself.
  • Withdrawing from family, friends, and society without replacing those relationships with other individuals.
  • Having a dramatic change in mood.  Both positive and negative changes in mood can be a signal that something isn’t right. 
  • Seeking access to means to hurt or kill oneself.
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness.
  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide.
  • Acting in a reckless manner or engaging in high risk activities.
  • Appearing to be in an agitated or angry mood often.
  • An increase in the use of drugs or alcohol.  

Tip Two: Take all Suicidal Statements Seriously

Take all statements about suicide seriously.  No one can know when a statement about suicide is a cry for help, a statement of intent, or something else.  Professional help should be sought when any suicidal thoughts or statements are expressed.  Youth Dynamics can conduct an assessment of the child, and from there recommend a course of action to best help children and their families.

Tip Three: Talk to Your Children About Suicide

Talk to children about suicide.  A common false belief is that talking about suicide will put the idea of suicide into a child’s head.  This belief is 100% false.  If an adolescent is having thoughts of suicide, having someone else bring the subject up can be a relief for them.  Parents need to be prepared to hear things that they might not expect when having conversations about suicide with their children.

If your child does express thoughts of suicide, it is important to remain calm.  Let your child know that you are there for them and want to help.  If suicidal thoughts are expressed, it is important to remove all items/objects that a child could potentially use to harm themselves.

Tip Four: Seek Professional Help

Become familiar with agencies in your area that are equipped to step in and help navigate your child’s treatment.  Youth Dynamics is a private nonprofit children’s mental health center that can provide support and treatment to children and their caregivers.  We offer a wide range of services to help children address issues that have lead to suicidal feelings.  Our community based services support struggling children through: mentoring, counseling, case management, and family support services.  If higher levels of care are needed, we offer therapeutic group homes in locations across the state.  At our therapeutic group homes, children will receive intensive therapeutic treatment in a safe setting.

Tip Five: Take Care of Yourself

Take care of yourself!  It is easy for parents to forget to take care of themselves.  When parents are stressed or experiencing mental health issues of their own, it can be hard for them to take care of others.  Remember to take the time to seek treatment or find ways to de-stress.  When parents take care of themselves, they are better equipped to be there for their children.

How to Get Help

Do you know or have a child who is struggling?  It is important that children receive support and treatment as soon as possible to prevent tragedy.  Most communities are equipped with supportive mental and behavioral health services for children and families.  In Montana, Youth Dynamics is located in twenty communities across the state.   We serve families within a sixty mile radius of all of our offices.  To get a child involved, you can call us at 1-877-458-7022, or go through our website to get started with your local Youth Dynamics office.

About the Author

Nicole Bergman is a Youth Mental Health First Aid instructor at Youth Dynamics.   A native of Michigan, Nicole has been serving children and families out of our Billings and Colstrip offices for the last two years.  Nicole is a mother of two, and has nearly a decade of experience working with vulnerable youth.  Nicole has a Bachelors degree in social work, and a passion for community education.  In addition to teaching Youth Mental Health First Aid, Nicole is also a certified Common Sense Parenting instructor.  Nicole also recruits, licenses, and trains foster parents in Montana.


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