CW (Content Warning): Self harm, suicide.
Have you ever heard this song? Watched the music video? (R.E.M.‘s Everybody Hurts)
There is something fascinating about this video. It starts with melodic guitar tones that repeat, soothing. Then it shows lots of people sitting in traffic, and the thought of each person is printed on their car windows. And these various thoughts remind us that everyone is going through things and, collectively, people are carrying a lot of weight from life’s challenges each and every day.
What if we could read what people are thinking across their foreheads?
Well, that could be a recipe for disaster, depending on the situation. But when we are reaching out for help, this could be lifesaving. And for the times we are reading others’ foreheads, we could really begin to understand where they’re coming from. To offer support, encouragement, an authentic human connection. This one little song became an anthem for suicide prevention the world over, and it continues to be used by organizations dedicated to preventing self-inflicted loss of life. What a powerful moment captured in a song!
How do we deal with suffering and the topic of suicide? How do we talk about this with our kids?
Parent Cue is a wonderful resource I’ve mentioned before with lots of topics and sound expert advise on how to communicate with your children, ages 0-18 years. They have several articles that will help steer “the other talk” with your middle or high schooler. If your kids are too young for this, bookmark these resources for when they are in middle school.
The excerpt below is from an article by Daniel Walters, a licensed professional counselor and contributor to Parent Cue. The entire article can be found here: https://theparentcue.org/the-suicide-talk/
The Suicide Talk by Daniel Walters
“Most parents know when they have kids that at some point they’ll have “the talk.” The one about the birds and the bees that incites awkwardness. Or some parents will leave a book with confusing anatomical drawings. (Thanks Mom.) Even still, there are some parents who just hope their kids “figure it out.” But do any parents consider talking to their kids about suicide in the same way? How many parents are willing to let their kids “figure out” suicide?
As a mental-health therapist who often works with teens, my impression is that most parents would rather talk to their kids about suicide just as little as they would talk to their kids about sex.
Why should I talk to my kids about suicide?
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Around 45,000 people die every year by suicide. Comparatively, in 2017 there were around 17,200 reported homicides in the United States. That number of suicides is over 2.5x greater than the amount of homicides.
The CDC reports that about 17%, or about one out of every 6 high-school students in 2017 in the United States seriously considered attempting suicide. About 13% of high school students made a suicide plan. And about 7% of high school students reported attempting suicide.
The reason you should talk to your kids about suicide is because they’ve already thought about it.
What should I say?
If you suspect they’re suicidal: Be compassionate. Try to understand the situation. Empathize. Ask directly, “Have you had any thoughts of killing yourself?” If the answer is yes, ask if they have made a plan, how they would do it or if they’re already committed to the idea. If they do have a plan or are committed, call 911, your local emergency room or call the Suicide Prevention lifeline at 800-273-8255.
If they’ve thought about suicide, but don’t directly have plan, get them to a therapist as soon as possible to start therapy. Let them know they can talk to you if they’re feeling suicidal. Give them the Suicide prevention lifeline – 800-273-8255. Hug them and tell them you love them.
Do not: marginalize their problems : “You’ll get over this soon because it’s not a big deal”.
Do not: compare them to others : “I was never suicidal and my problems were even worse!”
A good rule of thumb when talking to someone who is feeling suicidal is that you should be doing the listening and they should be doing the talking.
If someone they know has committed or attempted suicide: Be compassionate. Try to understand the situation. Empathize. If you suspect it, ask if they are also feeling suicidal. Some research suggests that those who experience a friend or peer who commits suicide, will have an increased likelihood for a future suicide attempt.
Do not: marginalize the relationship : “Did you even know him that well?”
Do not: cast judgment or shame on the person who took their life.
You might be asking yourself, “If I talk to my kids about suicide, won’t I just be putting that idea in their head?”
No. That myth has been busted. Talking about suicide beforehand actually lessens the likelihood of your child attempting or committing suicide.
Don’t forget, in these situations you should be doing more listening and less talking.
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for more additional resources.” And if you’d also like to talk to someone at Holmeswood, please reach out to a pastor at (816) 942-1729; we can offer support as your church family, while these other professional organizations listed help with therapy.
YES, this is a really difficult topic. And we all bring our own experiences, views and concerns to the table, but we are promised presence and the Peace of Christ as we go through all of our days. May we lean into God’s presence with us in the difficult and confusing moments, too.
Prayer: God of This moment and All moments, offer peace to us. Life is challenging, and Jesus promises to always be with us. No exceptions. May we find comfort in never being alone. May we use wisdom and deep listening to guide our conversations around suicide and self-harm. And may we find levity in life’s daily moments, for there is always “joy in the morning.” Amen.
THIS SUNDAY, October 16 – Children’s Sabbath
- Children lead at Holmeswood, and this day is global focus shared with faith communities around the world. Started and resourced by the Children’s Defense Fund, “The National Observance of Children’s Sabbath, is a time for people of all faiths to unite in shared concern for children and common commitment to improving children’s lives and working for justice on their behalf.” If your child or youth would like to participate, email Laurel.
October 30 – Trunk or Treat *now with Lunch!
- Come one, come all – it is time to dress up and celebrate! While some of us will “dress up” our vehicles in a fun theme, trick or treaters and their families will go around and join in the fun of creativity and neighborhood connections. We will provide a simple hot dog lunch and backyard games, so stick around for the fun!
- See this week’s Martin City Telegraph ad for our event!
November 6 – All Saints Sunday
- Annually, we remember in Worship saints who have died in the last year, particularly church members and those making a difference in our community. A special activity for the children to give to families whose loved ones have died will be made and gifted, and this is also a time to talk about grief with children in a safe, age-appropriate way that will give families tools for conversations in the present and future.
Have a wonderful week! You are loved.