By CARLA Y. BUSH
Losing someone special to death, no matter the circumstance, is never easy. Hearing about the passing of a beloved public figure like actor and comedian, Robin Williams can be equally tough too…especially when the cause is 100% preventable.
According to the TN Department of Mental Health Services, an estimated 850 people die by suicide in Tennessee every year. It's the third leading cause of death among youth and young adults in our State in across the nation (http://tn.gov/mental/mentalhealthservices/sp_child_suicide.shtml). While deeply saddening, hearing about a person's apparent self-inflicted death provides parents and families opportunities to have open conversations about difficult topics like death and suicide. Conversations will vary depending on beliefs, culture, and children's ages.
According to Dr. Matt Devereaux, children ages 11 and younger (elementary age) should be guarded from exposure to media coverage focused on the cause of Robin Williams' death. However, if asked about suicide and death Dr. Devereaux says that "honesty is the best policy". Devereaux notes the importance of short and simple responses to children's questions, while ensuring that they always have a safe person to talk to if they ever have such thoughts or feel sad in a way that's different than just stubbing your toe.
Dr. Devereaux adds that parents and caregivers should seize this opportunity to talk openly and honestly with youth who are middle- and high-school age about the signs and symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts. You will not cause a person to become suicidal just by talking about it. Communicate clearly that you are a safe person that he/she can always reach out to for non-judgmental and honest conversations about mental health.
Here are some of the signs and symptoms of suicidal thoughts/planning, along with resources to guide conversations, and where to turn for help.
Signs of Suicidal Thoughts and Plans
- Looking for a way to kill oneself, like searching online or buying items to assist suicide.
- Preoccupation with death
- Talking about: (any of these)
- wanting to die or to kill oneself,
- feeling hopeless or no reason to live,
- feeling trapped or in unbearable pain,
- wanting to sleep and not wake up,
- being a burden to others.
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious/agitated; being reckless.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
- Showing rage or talking about revenge.
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
- Sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed.
- Giving away personal items for no apparent reason.