Local psychologist offers tips for talking to your children abou - KCTV5 News

Local psychologist offers tips for talking to your children about suicide

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As the community mourns the loss of a Lee’s Summit teen who died by suicide, experts at Crittenton Children’s Center say the best thing for parents to do right now is listen.

A psychologist at the center, Dr. Kathy Harms, said, “The impulse would be for parents to question their kids, ‘Are you suicidal? Do you have those thoughts?’”

However, she said it’s best to fight those instincts.

If you must ask questions, focus on their life, focus on how they deal with depression, and give them options.

“So many times people ask, ‘What’s your plan if you do suicide?’” said Dr. Harms. “Instead, ask, ‘What’s your plan to live? Why do you want to live?’”

Once you’ve had that conversation, move forward.

Dr. Harms said that if they have something planned to do this weekend, great. If they don’t, plan something. She said it’s about responsibility. “An older teenager who has a job is less likely to suicide.”

Also, recognize the signs. Depression, hopelessness, and anxiety are some of the obvious ones but there are also more subtle ones.

“Statistics show that, right before someone does suicide, they’re more euphoric and have more energy and are more prone to carry out the suicide,” she said.

Whether your child attends Lee's Summit North or not, they will probably know about it due to social media such as Snapchat and Facebook. Child psychologist Stephen Lassen said studies show tragedies like this often "cluster together," meaning one can lead to another.

That's why the conversation needs to happen now.

“We know that when there are suicides and things like this that happen, there is a contagion effect," Dr. Lassen said, "for those kids who may be at risk to start thinking about harming themselves.”

He said, usually, opening a line of communication about your child’s well-being is best done in casual conversation, regularly, without forcing it.

However, on a day when something tragic like what happened on Friday happens, a sit-down is warranted. 

As for what happened at Lee’s Summit North, there are still lots of questions. So many people want to know why.

However, Dr. Lassen cautions against rushing to judgment.

“Human nature is to want to understand and predict and explain things and, unfortunately, sometimes we just can’t," he said.

Speaking of social media, he advises getting all of your kids’ social media account info – at least to your best ability – because sometimes they will say things there that they won’t say to you.

Parents may need help, too.

Dr. Harms suggests talking to other parents. It’s important to help yourself so you can better help your children.  

She said that whether you’re a teen or a parent, there are resources for everyone to help prevent suicide.

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK OR 1-800-273-8255. The lifeline offers free and confidential emotional support. It is manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year around.

Those in need can also chat live with a counselor by logging onto suicidepreventionlifeline.org. 

Related news: 

Lee’s Summit North student dies at hospital after shooting self at school

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