Don’t wait to start the conversation. If a suicide has happened in a young person’s community or if a celebrity attempts or dies by suicide, you should use this as an opportunity to talk to them about the issue. Don’t be afraid to have the conversation. Young people will have lots of complex thoughts and feelings, which should be explored carefully and with guidance.
Using open-ended questions will help you explore what they know about the story and allow you to fill in the blanks without revealing too much information that may distress them. Keeping your responses simple and short allows young people in your care to direct the conversation with their questions.
Critically, you should casually explore what a young person would do if they felt isolated, sad, or like they wanted to hurt themselves. Check they know who they could speak to and where they could seek help.
Keep in mind that when a traumatic event is breaking news, information can come quickly through social media streams. Advising young people to take a break from the internet for a few hours can help them feel less overwhelmed and upset.
Using these opportunities as teachable moments can greatly empower young people to realise they are not alone and access the supports around them if they are struggling.
“I saw on the news that someone died in our area. It’s really sad.”
“What did you hear about what happened to [person]?”
“How do you feel about what happened? Is there anything I can do to support you?
“If you felt sad and low, who could you talk to?”
“I really care about you, and I’m always here for you. It means a lot to me that we can be honest with each other about everything.”