8 Things Parents Can Do to Prevent Suicide

To prevent suicide in children and young people, parents must pay attention to their children's upbringing, emotional health, and environment. In the following article, we'll share with you some keys in this regard.
8 Things Parents Can Do to Prevent Suicide
Elena Sanz Martín

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 16 December, 2022

Suicide is an emotionally devastating event for entire families. And, although the loss is always painful, when it’s a child or young person, the suffering can be even greater. In these stages, the family environment plays a crucial role in the education and support of the child’s life. Therefore, we want to share with you 8 things that parents can do to prevent suicide.

The statistics are worrying. Suicide is among the leading causes of death worldwide in the child and adolescent population. In addition, it’s estimated that 2 % of children express suicidal thoughts. In fact, this number triples and reaches 6% when they reach adolescence. To prevent tragedy from occurring, a series of measures must be taken by the children’s closest environment, which we’ll explore below.

What can parents do to prevent suicide?

First of all, it’s important to know that in most cases, the suicidal person doesn’t wish to die, but rather to stop living in suffering. Although certain mental disorders can precipitate impulsive suicides, it’s generally sustained despair that leads to this act.

When external circumstances are very adverse, painful, and demanding, if the person doesn’t have the capacity to cope with them, suicide appears to be the only way out. In view of this, prevention should focus on both the living conditions and the personal resources and tools available to children. The following steps can be key:

1. Caring for the mental health of children and adolescents

Stigmatizing mental health care can cost lives. Many people still think that therapy is for crazy people and that no child has a big enough problem to need that kind of help. But the truth is that between 15 and 25% of children suffer from some psychological disorder. Moreover, studies have found that 9 out of 10 children who take their own lives suffer from some mental disorder.

Therefore, it’s essential to take care of the emotional health of children and seek help as soon as necessary. If your child shows signs of anxiety, apathy, depression, or any mental health condition, don’t assume that it’s something minor and temporary. You need to give the issue the importance it deserves and seek support.

A teenage girl sitting on the floor in the dark.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in children and adolescents. For this reason, taking care of the mental health of minors is fundamental.

2. Be attentive to the signs

Even if they don’t suffer from any mental disorder, young people usually show signs of suicidal ideation before committing the act. Many parents minimize these expressions, downplay their importance, or are simply shocked and avoid talking about it, but it’s crucial that they do.

Ask openly about it, and become a safe space where your children can express what they think and feel without fear of judgment and with the assurance that they’ll receive support. Don’t think that their expressions regarding suicide are just a way of attracting attention.

3. Validate and accompany the emotions of children

Remember that in adolescence, the emotional intensity is very high. At this stage, everything is magnified and any daily event can impact and affect young people. Although for a parent, the problem may seem insignificant, it’s essential to validate the emotions of their children. Listening to their problems and difficulties, supporting them, and, above all, teaching them how to manage those emotional states that overflow is key.

4. Create solid family bonds

The family is a fundamental pillar during childhood and also in adolescence. Complicated, conflicting, or weak family relationships can cause lack and suffering in children. Therefore, cultivate a close, loving, respectful, and trusting bond with your children. It’s important that communication is healthy and fluid, that family time is abundant and nurturing, and that parenting is democratic. This can be a great protective factor.

5. Encourage healthy social relationships

Peer group relationships also play a very important role, especially in adolescence. Bullying is one of the major contributing factors to youth suicide. On the other hand, having a strong support network can cushion the stress at this stage of life. For the same reason, ensure that your child has a broad and healthy social environment.

6. Promote a healthy lifestyle

Getting enough rest, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly are aspects to pay attention to. These have an important influence on mood and are conducive to better mental and emotional health. Therefore, try to instill a healthy lifestyle in your children from childhood and see that they maintain it as they grow up.

A teenage girl running on a path in the woods.
Promoting a healthy lifestyle helps to clear negative thoughts and reduce stress. Physical exercise, proper diet, and good rest are key.

7. Educate children in emotional intelligence

As we said, it’s key that children and young people have the resources to face the adversities that may arise in their lives. It’s natural, due to their cognitive and emotional immaturity and inexperience, for them to not always know how to react in the best way. For this reason, emotional education must be worked on from childhood. Teaching them to understand and process their emotions, set limits, communicate, and have solid self-esteem are essential tasks.

8. Seek professional help to prevent suicide

Finally, it’s important to remember that it’s not entirely up to parents to prevent suicide. Even the healthiest, most loved, and most resourceful child can be overwhelmed or have suicidal thoughts. Therefore, it’s vitally important to turn to professionals at any sign or indication. Not only can they intervene with the child, but also provide guidance to parents to accompany their child’s path to recovery.

What can parents do to prevent suicide?

Dialoguing, listening, and accompanying children and adolescents is key to achieving a bond of trust in which they feel confident to turn to their parents when they need help. Special attention and action should be paid to those signs that cause us concern, instead of letting them pass because we think it’s a minor problem. Remember that you can always count on a professional to help your child. They can even give you some guidelines to know how to act in these cases.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.