How To Explain Depression & Suicide To Your Children

If your kids are of the age where they have access to the media and social networks, it can be very difficult to shield them from the news that can be detrimental to them.  In light of the recent tragic suicide of Fashion Designer Kate Spade, the stories and tributes were shared all over social media.  So how do we as moms shield and protect our kids?  Or do we just find a way to explain the harsh realities to them?

The approach I took with my kids is to explain what Depression is first.  I had to explain to my children that when Depression gets bad enough, is left untreated, or is simply too much for a person, sometimes they mistakenly believe that the world is better off without them.  They often see all of their flaws and none of the positive attributes as to why people love them and use that to justify to themselves why they need to end their own lives.

Suicide can be a touchy subject because it is often looked at the wrong way.  The mistaken belief is someone was too weak, they gave up, they didn’t fight hard enough, or many other beliefs.  The truth is that everyone has a breaking point and when coupled with a mental health illness, it can simply be too much on someone and bring them to their breaking point, even when they have people around them who love them.

It’s pretty common for someone to be surrounded by people who love them and still feel completely alone.  That’s a part of the illness.  The family and friends that are left behind are often left questioning how they missed the signs and how they could’ve done something.  The truth is, if you’re not trained to see the symptoms, you may very well miss them and it won’t be your fault.  People who suffer, usually suffer in silence.  The majority of people suffering will downplay how severe the issues are and often use things to cover it up like drinking, drugs, sex, spending excessive amounts of money, etc.

While these are very much adult concepts, how do we explain them to our kids?  How do we get them to understand that suicide is never the answer?  The world needs them too much.  Someone’s life won’t be positively changed because they’ve left the earth.  I wouldn’t advise scaring them with telling them they’ll go to hell if they commit suicide.  Fear isn’t the best deterrent and is often seen as a better option.  People often feel like if they’re already living in hell, they may as well go all the way.

I’ve found that the best way to tell my kids is to give them the comparison of when their physical bodies are sick.  When we’re sick, we go to the doctor and find out what’s wrong with us, and get the help we need to get better.  It’s the same thing when there is an illness affecting our brains, thoughts, feelings, etc.  While conventional therapy may not be for everyone, there are so many different types of therapies out there nowadays for different types of people, there should be no reason not to find the help you need.  So when there’s something wrong mentally and people don’t get the help to treat it, it often becomes worse and they see no way out.  The truth is there was a way out, but they didn’t have the treatment they needed to get better, so instead the illness became worse and worse and consumed their thoughts, making them mistakenly feel like the world is better off with them dead.

I also make sure I tell my kids if they’re ever feeling like they’re in a place like this, please don’t hesitate to come talk to me.  I can help them get access to the help they need to get better.  I let my kids know that there are lives that will be changed for the better because of them.  Don’t cut their destiny short.  While there are so many different ways to approach this subject with children, take into account their age, maturity level, understanding, etc.  Make the best decisions you can as a parent to check on them and assure them.  If you suspect something, don’t hesitate to sit down and talk with them.  Keep an open line of communication.  It may save their life one day.




About the Author

Nadine Smiley is a Writer, Author, Speaker, and Consultant. She is a Les Brown trained Speaker and is part of The Les Brown Maximum Achievement Team. She speaks on a variety of topics to include living your purpose, Entrepreneurship, balancing business and family, holistic wellness, etc.

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