Many of us parents, uncomfortable though we may be, feel we must have “the talk” with our teen and young adult children. We talk about sex, STDs, birth control, alcohol, drugs—and all these are very important. But often enough we parents do not include in “the talk” potentially lifesaving information regarding depression, suicide and dealing with mental health crises.
I recently read a blog by Holly Hinds, who lost her teenage son to suicide 13 years ago. In her blog, she cites “Off to College: A Mental Health Checklist for Parents of First Year Students” by Jay Boll.
Mr. Boll makes many good, helpful points for parents to discuss with their college-bound children. Many lifelong mental health problems manifest themselves first in the teen and college age years. He points out that suicide is the third leading cause of death in college students. All too often, our children are too inexperienced or overwhelmed to deal effectively with what is going on mentally or emotionally inside themselves. Unfortunately, they may try to hide what is going on from us for fear of worrying us, or because they are ashamed, or because they think they should be able to handle their problems by themselves.
We need to let our children know that NO ONE SHOULD GO THROUGH MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS OR SUICIDAL FEELINGS ALONE. We as parents may not have all the answers, but we can talk with our children, stand with them as they go through their struggles, help them get the professional help they need, and support their efforts at greater self care. We can be willing to get help for ourselves, too, as we try to be there for our children in their mental and emotional struggles. We can get help from such organizations as NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill), RtoR.org (Resources to Recover—a website for families) and our local suicide hotline.
We owe it to our children to have this talk with them. It may save their lives.
For more information about Nikki Nelson, LCSW, click here.
Originally published May 1, 2015