Frequently Asked Questions for Parents

1.Who considers suicide? More...

A: One in twelve high school students consider suicide and in Maine, approximately 20 youth die by suicide each year. In general, people (of all ages) who are depressed or having trouble coping with their feelings may consider suicide if they don’t have other coping skills. People of all ages, races, faiths, income levels, and cultures die by suicide. Popular, high achieving people, who seem to have everything going for them and those who are less well off, die by suicide. Suicidal youth come from all kinds of families, rich and poor, happy and sad, two-parent and single-parent. It is really important to understand that suicidal behavior knows no boundaries.

2. Can a teen really be suicidal? More...

A: In part, that is exactly the problem. It is widely believed that childhood is free from the stress and problems of adult life and a time for fun. However, the world is a much different place now than it was when the parents of today’s teenagers were teenagers themselves. We live in an information packed and high stress society. Competition for college acceptance and jobs is fierce. Teens are expected to go to school full time, participate in school activities, work 20-25 hours a week in their "part-time job" and manage to get their chores and homework done on the side. It doesn’t leave much time for fun and those teens who do manage to have a social life, usually don’t get enough sleep and this tends to make teens easily frustrated and angry. The expectations placed upon teens in our society can be very difficult to handle, as teens have not yet developed the skills needed to deal with these stresses. A loss that seems trivial to an adult can become life threatening to a teen if they cannot find a way to cope with the feelings or find a solution. Also, they need to solve the problem fast as they have been raised in a culture obsessed with "now" (e-mail, voice mail, cell phones, pagers, etc.) For teens this day is a big as it gets.

3. Why do people die by suicide? More...

A: Suicidal behavior is one of the most complicated of human behaviors. This question cannot be answered briefly. There is no particular set of risk factors that accurately predict the likelihood of imminent danger of suicide for a specific individual. It is fair to say that suicidal people are experiencing varying degrees of external stressors, internal conflict and neurobiological dysfunction and these factors contribute to their state of mind. Depression, anxiety, conduct disorders, and substance abuse all contribute to the possibility of suicide, but they do not cause suicide. A “final straw” for suicide is usually the last thing that a person who kills him/herself is thinking about, and many left behind want to blame that person or event, but the “final straw” was NOT the cause of the suicide. Many people who kill themselves had no “final straw” that others could see. The reasons behind a suicide often remain a mystery.

4. Won’t people think I am a bad parent if my teen is suicidal? More...

A: Some people may be quick to judge and not understand that given a certain set of circumstances, any of us could feel suicidal. It is more likely that people will think you are a loving and caring parent if you are helping to keep your teen alive. Professionals, in particular, deal with suicidal individuals every day. They understand how difficult life can be for a teen and that parents cannot protect their children from all the stress in the world. What you can do is listen to your teen and take action when they cannot. Take care of them.

5. Every time I ask, my teen tells me that I won’t understand. How can I help him to talk? More...

A: Acknowledge that you might not understand, but that you care very much and you will try to understand. Also keep in mind that this phrase tends to be used when they can’t explain how they feel as well. Another option is to tell them you understand they don’t want to talk to you, but would they agree to talk about it with someone else, like a counselor? If they agree, follow-up on it, you can even make the initial call yourself if they want you to.

6. My teenager listens to horrible music, I’m worried that the violent lyrics will make her kill herself. More...

A: While you may not like your teen’s choice in music, it is unlikely to make him or her kill him/herself if that was not already an issue. In fact, for most teens, music, even violent music, may actually allow them to vent some of their anger and frustration and help them to feel better. However, there are situations where a teenager who is already feeling depressed or feeling alienated may choose a certain type of music that increases those feelings. Discuss your concerns with your teen and get help if they feel like hurting or killing themselves.

7. How can I help my child not to feel suicidal? More...

A: This begins by talking about suicide before it becomes an issue and the teen is in a crisis. We need to acknowledge that suicide is an option that teens consider and open the channels of communication so that teens have somewhere to turn where they know they will be understood. One of the major reasons why teens don’t turn to adults is that they feel they will not be understood. This website can help to educate you about suicide and what you can do.

8. How do I ask if I think someone may be suicidal? More...

A: Suicide can be a difficult topic to discuss, especially with teens. Some possible conversation starters include:

  • You haven’t seemed like yourself recently, what’s been going on?
  • I know that some difficult things have happened recently, I’m concerned about how you’re feeling.

Once you’ve opened up conversation, it’s important to ask directly about suicidal intent. The following questions may be useful:

  • Do you feel like things will never get better?
  • Have you been feeling like killing yourself is an answer to your problem?
  • Have you ever considered suicide? Are you suicidal now?

If you’ve ever had experience with suicide, you could talk with the person about how you felt in your situation. For example, “I remember feeling that way once before, I was so overwhelmed and I felt like dying was the easiest way out. Do you feel that way?”

If your child is suicidal, it is important to remove all lethal means from the household and get help. The Maine Crisis Hotline (1-888-568-1112) can be accessed 24 hours a week, 7 days a week and will help you to determine what type of intervention is necessary. Even if your child does not indicate that he/she is feeling suicidal, seeking out help is always an option--from a school counselor, professional counselor, clergy, etc.

9. What would you do if your teen is talking about killing him/herself? More...

A:The Maine Suicide Prevention Program recommends the following three basic suicide intervention steps:

  1. Show You Care
    Listen Carefully
  2. Ask About Suicide
    Ask directly in a caring, non-confrontational way
  3. Get Help
    Stay with the person, call the Maine statewide 24-hour crisis line at 1-888-568-1112, or another source of help.