Marie Osmond Knows From the Suicide of a Child
This morning, we woke up to learn that Marie Osmond's teenage son had jumped out a window, leaving behind a suicide note. As a member of the editorial team of this parenting website, my first thought was, "That poor mom. How is she going to get through this? Forget that she's a celebrity. She's a mom first."
My next thought was that we were not going to run a news story about it.
Fresh out of journalism school years ago, I learned about something called copycatism. There had been a number of kids who'd killed themselves and my boss explained to me that that's what happens when teen suicides hit the front pages. It was then, as a cub reporter, that I decided I would never cover such a story.
The number one worst thing that can happen to a parent is her child dying. Only one thing makes it worse: If that child took his own life.
A friend, who lost his beautiful daughter to brain cancer in 2006, suffered terribly. Three years later, when he heard that his friend's child had tried to commit suicide -- and, thank God, failed -- he had a most surprising reaction.
"I didn't know what to say to her," David explains. "My daughter's death was not her fault. I just can't imagine what it would be like to lose a child by her own hand. There are no words that can ease that pain." And this from a guy -- a salesman -- who talks for a living.
So, Parents, in our small attempt to help, here's a list of some of the warning signs. A more comprehensive suicide prevention guide can be found at HelpGuide.org.
1) If your child says, "I want to kill myself," or some variation thereof, even if it sounds like a snarky joke, TAKE IT SERIOUSLY. Talk to your child and find out what's going on. Don't dismiss any kind of struggle that he's having as mere growing pains. Listen to what he's saying.
2) Don't wait to seek out professional help. Talk to a psychiatrist or another mental health professional to get advice on how to handle it. Or, better still, bring your child to that therapist. If your child is saying, "I am going to kill myself," get him to an emergency room immediately.
3) Take your child's other kinds of comments seriously as well. If your child says things like, "Life is not worth living," or "I don't see the purpose to life," or "You won't have to worry about me anymore," unpack that with him. Ask him what he means. When you dig deeper, you might discover a desperation hidden under the surface. Get help immediately in the form of a psychiatrist.
4) Don't leave your child alone if you suspect that he's even the least bit suicidal.
5) Irritability or an angry mood for no apparent reason is another biggie. Don't dismiss it as typical teenage behavior.
6) Withdrawing. Is your child isolating himself from people? It doesn't have to be everyone, but if he's keeping away from some people, that's a sign that there's something serious going on.
7) Substance Abuse. If you suspect your child is using alcohol or drugs -- prescription, over-the-counter or illegal drugs -- seek help immediately.
8) Reach out to the pros. If you have any questions, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK or 800-273-8255.
For more on this subject, visit helpguide.org. Click here for the section for parents.
Click here for the section for teens. For those outside the United States, contact Befrienders.org.
This article was originally published on February 28, 2010.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.