Suicide does not discriminate against race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and especially age. In reality, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States for all ages, being that 1 in 100,000 children aged 10 – 14 die by suicide each year, according to the CDC and NIMH. The worst part about these statistics? Suicide is preventable.
It’s never too early to start the conversation around mental health and suicide prevention with children. We can begin by encouraging self-care techniques that establish coping skills and support overall mental health which can spread a greater sense of hope and help to prevent suicide. Here are 4 self-care approaches that can reduce suicide risk factors in children:
Education is one of the most powerful tools we have. The more we know about suicide and mental health, the more we can help not only ourselves but others too. You’re never too early, too late, too young, or too old to start a conversation around mental health. However, when teaching children about mental health and suicide, it’s important to consider their age to determine appropriate communication strategies.
A valuable strategy for open learning and receptive dialogue is to keep information real, relevant, and relatable. To do so, introduce materials that tackle the topic of children’s mental health, and more importantly, suicide, in a digestible manner. Consider a podcast about suicide prevention from a young person’s perspective. Hearing about others’ experiences with anxiety and depression can encourage other children their age to get talking; if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts or worried about someone else who is. It’s important to learn about some of the most common mental illnesses and how they may increase the risk of suicide.
Suicide does not have a single, simple cause. Various biological or social environmental factors can be attributed as triggers. Nonetheless, when understanding suicide risk factors and prevention, as well as overall mental health, remind children that the brain is an organ too and needs as much TLC as any other part of our body. While there is no “cure-all” for suicide and we would never want to minimize its prevalence, we can take preventative measures to keep our brains healthy to reduce underlying effects so that suicide does not become an option.
Small lifestyle changes can help to nurture our brain and improve mood. Making dietary changes, such as reducing junk food intake and incorporating nutrient boosting food can stimulate neurotransmitter production (aka feel-good chemicals). additionally, experts say exercising for 30 minutes a day, 3 to 5 days a week, can help alleviate depression or other underlying conditions and risk factors, by reducing stress, improving mood, and even boosting self-esteem.
As important as communication is, sometimes, words simply fail. But that doesn’t mean the dialogue stops there. Finding an outlet to express intense emotions is a healthy communication strategy. The National Alliance on Mental Illness shares personal stories, including one account of how music helped one individual navigate their feelings of grief and overcome suicidal
thoughts; “When I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t okay, writing music gave me the confidence that someone, somewhere, felt exactly as I did. That it was okay to not be okay, but it was also important to search for ways to bring light to my darkness.”
Journaling has also proven to be a useful coping strategy as it brings thoughts and feelings to the surface, helping you realize what is upsetting you. Writing in a journal can provide a sense of control by putting thoughts and emotions into perspective and making them feel more manageable. Experts suggest using gratitude or affirmation journals to retrain the brain to recount happy memories instead of negative feelings. Most importantly, experts note that “Journaling helps you take an active role in your treatment. It empowers you to do something to help yourself feel better. It also helps you recognize when you feel worse and need extra help.”
Feeling hopeless or helpless can be overwhelming feelings and triggers for suicidal thoughts and actions, especially with stigma prevailing. The most effective way to combat this is to know that support is available for you and to know how to support others. Please note: if you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911. There is also immediate help available by
calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or texting HELLO to 741741 (the Crisis Text Line). Even if you don’t think you, or a friend, will act upon suicidal thoughts, it’s essential to establish trusted individuals that you can feel safe and comfortable talking to such as friends, family, teachers, counselors and other medical professionals or support groups.
Most people who consider suicide don’t want to die, they just aren’t sure of how to cope with or eliminate the pain they feel. It’s critical to remind children, and anyone for that matter, that there is always hope and no one is ever alone.
Thank you, JumoHealth.com for this article.