Talking about suicide seen as prevention key

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Talking about suicide is one of the key prevention methods for youth, an academic says.

Dr Jonathan Singer will give a talk at a youth suicide prevention workshop in Dunedin next week.

Dr Singer is an associate professor of social work at Loyola University in Chicago, and co-author of Suicide in Schools: A Practitioner's Guide to Multi-level Prevention, Assessment, Intervention, and Postvention.

Jonathan Singer. Photo:
Jonathan Singer. Photo:
He will discuss some of the myths and facts about suicide.

A common myth was the idea that talking about suicide would encourage people to take their own lives, he said.

"But that's not true. There are just some things you can't put into somebody's mind.''

"Kids want to talk about how they're feeling."

The traditional idea that suicide was a "silent killer'' was not true, he said.

"The only people who really don't want to talk about suicide is professionals.''

It was important to make people, particularly adults, feel comfortable about talking about it.

During a regular doctor's appointment, people should be asked their plans for the future and what they were excited about in life.

"If it seems like there's nothing going on then the professionals shouldn't be scared to say 'hey, I'm wondering if you've had thoughts of ending your life','' he said.

Globally, indigenous groups had the highest suicide rates, and youth were "highly impressionable''.

"I think that there's a sense of being marginalised societally.''

Youth did not seem to be recognising themselves in "society at large'', he said.

It was also important to support parents of children who were at risk of suicide.

"One of the things for parents that's so challenging is that it's a very shameful experience - not that it should be, of course.

"It's really important when I talk to parents to acknowledge that it can be really stressful to parent a kid that is struggling and, even though we joke about it, we really don't have a parenting manual.''

If there were things parents wished they had done with their children when they were younger, such as being more structured or gentle and loving, do them now - "It's not too late.''

The workshop is recommended for professionals working with young people in the mental health, education, youth justice or social service sectors. It will be held at Te Hou Ora Whanau Service on Tuesday next week from 9am until 3pm.

• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)


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