Way to discuss suicide prevention with young children

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WDRB) -- Eight students in Jefferson County Public Schools have committed suicide so far this school year, according to the district.

More than 44,000 Americans die by suicide each year, according to the American Association of Suicidology. Kentucky Youth Risk Behavior Survey data shows 9.4 percent of Kentucky youth have attempted suicide and 15.7 percent have seriously considered it.

Most recently in Louisville, Seven Bridges, 10, killed himself after being repeatedly bullied, according to his parents.

Experts say knowing the warning signs is the first step.

"It's really important that parents bring up topics like sadness, worry, and even thoughts of killing themselves, or not wanting to be here anymore," says Katy Hopkins a Psychologist for Norton Children's Medical Associates. Having these conversations will not plant the idea of suicide but will, instead, let your child know you care about him or her and are there to help.

If a child is having thoughts of suicide Hopkins says it is important to tell the child how loved the child is and how many people care about him. "Often times, children and adolescents don't have the capacity to think about the future. Therefore, it's hard for them to imagine what are the consequences of making such a drastic step,” said Hopkins. "It's important for the adult, who can certainly think of what those consequences would be, that you remind them how special they are to you. Then, the next thing you need do is reach out immediately to a mental health care provider, or your primary care, or in some cases, go straight to the emergency room," emphasized Hopkins.

Warning signs for suicide include signs of depression but also can include these symptoms:

    Threats or comments about killing themselves, especially if they verbalize a plan or have a way to end their life

    Increased substance use

    Withdrawal from friends, family, society

    Uncontrolled anger, rage

    Reckless behaviors or engaging in risky activities

    Dramatic mood swings

"If you see your kids starting to not do things they love anymore, withdrawing from their friends, from their family, from the things they used to find enjoyment from, or if you see them having a period of sadness lasting weeks or months, those are good indications there is something really wrong beyond just the typical slamming the door in your face and saying, ‘I hate you and I don't want to be here anymore,’" Hopkins said.

Suicide in children and adolescents is rare. Numerous resources are available for parents including: Norton Children's Hospital, The American Association of Suicidology, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

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