World Suicide Prevention Day, 2020: Suicide conversations need to be open, honest

TALK TIME: How to speak to your teenager about suicide and mental health. Photo: FILE
TALK TIME: How to speak to your teenager about suicide and mental health. Photo: FILE

PARENTS should speak openly about suicide with their child, even if they fear hearing the answer, mental health experts say.

Thursday, September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day and Australian Community Media has spoken to mental health experts about this often taboo topic.

Myths that speaking about suicide could put the idea into your child's head are exactly that, myths, Charles Sturt University clinical psychologist and Associate Professor Dr Gene Hodgins says.

"There's a myth that if you ask someone if they're thinking about suicide or hurting themselves that it'll put the idea into their head, that's been debunked," he said.

Dr Hodgins said speaking openly about mental health and suicide can actually bring relief to the person who is suffering.

"Most people, when they're starting to think about not being around, they don't just blurt it out to people," he said.

The time to ask is when you see changes in your child.

TALK, BUT LISTEN: Ask your children open-ended questions, Charles Sturt University clinical psychologist and Associate Professor Dr Gene Hodgins urged. Photo: SUPPLIED

TALK, BUT LISTEN: Ask your children open-ended questions, Charles Sturt University clinical psychologist and Associate Professor Dr Gene Hodgins urged. Photo: SUPPLIED

"There's normally worrying signs it's when you see a change in the way that person is talking or a change in the way they are acting," Dr Hodgins said.

"There can be a change in appearance or people can start giving away their possessions."

Parents should ask open-ended questions, such as "can you tell me more about it".

"Use the word suicide or hurting yourself, don't hedge around it. If you're concerned enough about it then ask the question," Dr Hodgins said. "When you're listening, be non-judgemental ... don't try to 'solve' the problem."

Dr Hodgins said parents are also able to call services like Lifeline or Kids Helpline for advice.

headspace intake and community engagement officers Jason Eggins and Steph Hart said the only way to assess suicide risk it to ask your child.

STAY CONNECTED: It's natural for parents to be fearful of having this conversation, headspace intake and community engagement officers Steph Hart and Jason Eggins said. Photo: SUPPLIED

STAY CONNECTED: It's natural for parents to be fearful of having this conversation, headspace intake and community engagement officers Steph Hart and Jason Eggins said. Photo: SUPPLIED

"Most don't want to die, but they can't see their way out of a problem and think that suicide is the way out," Mr Eggins said.

"It's natural for parents to have fear about asking.

"It's important to remain calm and let the young person know it's really important that they've spoken up."

Ms Hart said having that conversation shows the young person how much the parents care.

"Let your young person know you are there for them and build that safe space," she said.

Ms Hart encouraged parents to start a support network and reach out to services that may be able to assist them and their child.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or in an emergency call triple-0.

This story How to speak to your teenager about suicide, mental health first appeared on Daily Liberal.