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Talking about teen suicide

Recently, my 15-year-old’s iPhone died. To accommodate his busy schedule, I took it without him to the Apple store to try to have it saved. No luck. It was smoked. Before handing over the phone, I opened the wallet on the back to remove his debit card. Under his bank card, I saw a card for the National Suicide Hotline. This made my heart stop more than the price of a new phone.

My mind started racing and thinking about why my son had this card. He seems happy and loves his many activities and sports. What was I missing? He certainly didn’t fit the profile of what I thought someone that would need a suicide prevention card. I am sure parents of children who have ended their lives early may have thought the same thing. We have sadly had a few in our school district. How do I approach this?

Luckily, I had a therapy appointment for myself already scheduled. If you read Ribbons & Wine regularly, I highly recommend finding and using a good therapist. She helped me find the words that I would have hoped to come up with on my own.

When I started the conversation with my son, keeping it as light and casual as possible, he quickly said, “Mom did you turn the card over?” I did not. I was so shocked to see it that I never thought to look at the other side. It was his student ID, and the school had the National Suicide Hotline printed on the back of all the student IDs. I was very relieved but still pressed on with the conversation my therapist helped me put together. In the end, I was very grateful this allowed me to have a meaningful discussion on the complex topic.

Here are my talking points from this crucial conversation. I’m hopeful it will help more parents talk about suicide and resources.

  • I am so happy and grateful you have suicide prevention resources.

  • If you or a friend are ever struggling with thoughts of suicide or hopelessness, have you thought about what you would do?

  • Teenagers can’t always see the bigger picture of life. I understand problems and feelings can seem overwhelming. They will pass. Everything that appears upsetting now might not be in a few days, weeks, or months.

  • What trusted adults do you have to go to if you need to talk or a friend needs help? You have so many adults that love and care for you.

  • Always take a friend who is upset seriously.

  • Teenagers can be impulsive. Suicide is forever.

  • We talked about each of our experiences with suicide.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Hours: Available 24 hours. Languages: English, Spanish.



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