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September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day: do you know how to talk to your kids about suicide?

Toronto, Sept. 5, 2012 – “i had a friend who i had been talking to alot, and in the end he killed himself. he didnt really go to other people, i was his go to. i talked him out of killing himself alot and when he did do it, i felt like i failed. i felt like he gave up on me just as much as he gave up on himself . i feel bad all the time. how could i fail him so bad when i knew he wanted to hurt himself?” – actual post from

What do you do if you have a child who comes to you and says he’s worried that a friend is suicidal?

It’s something that Kids Help Phone’s professional counsellors hear about often.


“A lot of young people worry about how to talk to their parents about something so intense, sensitive, and complex,” says Cheryl-Lynn Roberts, professional counsellor, Kids Help Phone. “They don’t want to worry their parents or the adults they trust. Or they know their parents are uncomfortable about certain issues. So often kids end up talking to their friends, asking them to keep the conversation a secret.”

Roberts says that young people who have suicidal thoughts want to be reminded that there is still hope. That’s why they are reaching out. But upon hearing that their friend is feeling suicidal or that they want to end their life, a young person may not only feel a lot of pressure and experience a great sense responsibilities, but they may also be unsure of how to respond to their friend’s needs.

“Keeping something like that a secret can be a big burden on a young person,” Roberts says. “They want to be a loyal friend, but the best thing to do is to talk to an adult. Both friends need support.”

Parents and trusted adults can be of great help to a kid who is worried about a friend. Even though, “it can be scary for adults to talk to young people about suicide, it’s always a good idea to have that conversation. Suicide can affect entire communities, and it’s a subject that we must learn to talk about, together. Kids need to know they can turn to you for the tough stuff.”

Why Kids Help Phone wants to talk about this:

• September 10th, 2012 marks the 10th anniversary of World Suicide Prevention Day.
• The theme of World Suicide Prevention Day this year is “Suicide Prevention across the Globe: Strengthening Protective Factors and Instilling Hope.”
• Kids Help Phone agrees: hope is arguably the most influential of all emotions. It gets us through stressful times and supports recovery. Kids Help Phone’s critical issue report “What’s hope got to do with it” offers tips and practical suggestions on being hope-centric and “doing hope” with the young people in our lives, available here:
• 3% of the contacts Kids Help Phone receives relate to suicide, translating into thousands of contacts from young people in urban, rural and remote communities throughout Canada
• Suicide is among the leading causes of death in 15-24 year old Canadians, second only to accidents. ( Source: The Canadian Mental Health Association)
• Mental health is increasingly being recognized as an issue affecting the lives of all youth in Canada. Canada’s youth suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world. (Source: The Canadian Mental Health Association)
• Suicide rates of Aboriginal youth (aged 15 to 24) are eight times higher than the national rate for females and five times higher than the national rate for males.
• Kids Help Phone counsellors have noted an increase in suicide-related contacts since launching Live Chat counselling earlier this year

How to talk to young people about suicide:

“Not talking about tough issues means the young people in your lives may not know it is safe to turn to you, and may end up feeling more isolated or misunderstood,” urges Roberts. Here are a few tips that can help parents start this important discussion:

• Do not let fear stop you; open up the conversation. Visit with your child it may help you overcome fears and start a discussion.
• Whether your child is sharing their own suicidal thoughts, or is expressing worry about a friend, try not to judge. Let your child do the talking, and try to avoid interrupting or expressing disappointment. Keep in mind that young people are also very sensitive to body language and facial expressions.
• If you suspect your child is in emotional distress or suicidal, talk to them about it. It’s not an easy conversation to have, but it is an important step that can help your child feel less alone and make it easier for them to accept support and assistance.
• Dealing with a friend who is suicidal is very stressful. Remind your child that they are doing the right thing in seeking help for their friend, and support for themself as well. Let them decompress afterwards, and just talk about what they’ve gone through and how they feel about it.

Kids Help Phone’s professional counsellors are available for interviews to share more insights on talking about suicide.

About Kids Help Phone

Since 1989, Kids Help Phone has been Canada’s leading online and phone counselling service for youth. It’s free, it’s anonymous and confidential, and it’s available any time of the day or night, 365 days a year in English and in French. Professional counsellors support the mental health and well-being of young people, ages five to 20, by providing one-on-one counselling, information and resources. As a community-based national charity, Kids Help Phone receives no core government funding and relies on community and corporate support to fund its essential and vital service. To learn more about Kids Help Phone, please You can also follow us at:

For further information:

Please contact Liz Worth, Communications Coordinator:
[email protected]
1-800-268-3062 ext. 8955