Losing a child to suicide is one of the worst experiences a parent can go through.
Is there a way we can protect our children from such thoughts, and get them the help they need?
There is quite a bit of information found online on how to spot a suicidal person and what you can do to help, but that’s provided you are lucky enough to notice the warning signs and be in a position of trust to the person with suicidal thoughts.
For parents, these signs may not be so apparent as we see our children every day. This means that changes that are obvious to others, may not be obvious to us.
When I was growing up, I knew a few peers who wanted to take their lives (including myself), and a couple who eventually did.
These are some common signs that suicidal people exhibit, which in isolation may not mean the person is suicidal, but in totality may make him or her more prone to suicide if triggered by a landmark event.
These are some things my parents did which saved me from taking my life, so I felt I should let you know in case it comes in useful.
1. Comfortable silences
If I didn’t want to talk about my day, that was ok. My parents wouldn’t bug me incessantly, but they made sure I knew they were just around the corner or a call away if I needed help.
I faced a huge rejection crisis in my life then from the people in places I spent a lot time in: school and church.
Basically I was a social reject. But when I went home, I was part of the family again. It didn’t matter how unpopular I was outside, but home was my safe haven.
3. Acts of kindness
After dinner, when I just wanted to sulk for a few hours till I fell asleep (which is the richest time for harbouring suicidal thoughts) my parents would knock on my door and ask me to come out for fruits, dessert, ice cream, etc.
This usually broke the chain of negative thoughts and having a full tummy does wonders.
4. “It’s OK, you can try again”
When your perceived value hinges precariously on the grades you get, every mark you failed to score is like a nail on your coffin.
But my parents made me look at the future, and not the past, by telling me how I can always try again next time, which made me see my grades as a challenge to overcome, not a failure to be punished for.
I have to highlight that there are many factors outside home which trigger suicide, and having a safe home environment may not completely prevent all suicides.
Blaming is also not constructive as there could be many reasons contributing to the decision to commit suicide.
I can only urge you to read a little bit deeper into this condition, and not to alienate other people with suicidal thoughts by making unnecessary remarks about the deceased.
Being there for your child, behind him even in failure, leading the way to professional help, and supporting your child through his journey to recovery, can make a huge difference.
Read more on what a fellow daddy blogger shares about child suicide and some useful advice from MOE for parents.