Mental Health

3 Questions To Ask Your Kids About Suicide Prevention

Delaney Ruston, MD
September 21, 2021
Mental health club at high school

The start of this month was Suicide Prevention Week, and I was so thrilled to talk with teens who organized events in their schools. Many teens also posted educational messages about suicide prevention on their social media feeds.


Speaking of social media, the recently surfaced research by Facebook on its own company Instagram’s negative impact on teens’ mental health ties in well to the importance of today’s blog. 


Many schools around the country are doing a 180-degree shift regarding suicide prevention education — and this is good!  It was practically unheard of just five years ago. That said, it is not yet everywhere, and that is why reading this blog and talking with your children is so important. 


In the Seattle area, Forefront in the Schools is an excellent model. This program was created by a friend of mine, Jennifer Stuber, Ph.D., and her team. The program’s mission is to get information about suicide prevention to parents, teachers, and students. This program uses a method called “train-the-trainer,” wherein parents train parents, teachers train teachers, and students train students. 


For example, teens get trained on suicide prevention via a PowerPoint presentation, and then they go into classrooms at their high schools and use the same  PowerPoint presentation to give their peers the information. For example, they talk about the important point that talking about suicide does not make someone become suicidal — a myth that needs to be eliminated immediately. Teens need to know that if they are worried about a friend, asking them whether they are thinking about suicide can be important. 

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In Screenagers NEXT CHAPTER, you see two high school girls, Eunsoo and Ella, who are teen leaders of suicide education in their school, talking about the things that surprised them most about doing the program. In a past blog, there is a powerful 4-minute clip of them from the film.


My daughter Tessa did this program in her high school, and she often told me how much she enjoyed giving these presentations to her peers because she knew the content was incredibly important. 


Another wonderful trend happening more and more in schools is the emergence of mental health clubs. Like any club, one or two adults are involved — often a super cool school counselor or a teacher who really cares about students’ emotional well-being. These clubs go by various names, such as Wellness Club, Mental Health Club, Suicide Prevention Club, Psychology Club, and more. The clubs do things like offering a pancake breakfast on a weekend morning for the community, where they present different topics to students and parents. They also do things like setting up a table at lunchtime to have discussions with other students and provide various resources.


Another exciting trend is that many schools are creating “Wellness Centers,” where they have resources and speakers from nonprofit organizations to speak about all sorts of topics, including suicide prevention.

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I recently talked to Lindsay, a senior in a Chicago-area public high school, advocating for a “Relaxation Room” at her school. She called me to get my thoughts on a petition she is putting together to create a Relaxation Room. She said to me, “I am motivated to do this because school can be such a stressful place, and we need a place for relaxation.”


Lindsay told me that another high school in her school district has a Relaxation Room, so she is hopeful that she can help bring one to her school. It is conversations with people like Lindsay that make me hopeful for our future. Please share ideas that come up via your conversations with our greater community on Facebook.


Before discussing suicide prevention with your kids, consider reading my past blog that has ideas about how to talk about this sensitive subject with youth. 


Three questions to ask your kids or teens:


  1. Do you think schools should teach about suicide prevention?  
  2. What does your school have in place that includes educating about suicide prevention? A mental health club?  A wellness center? A health class? If not, what would you like to see? 
  3. Do you think it could be useful to have students teach other students about suicide prevention?

Ideas to get the conversation started:

  1. The questions above are the key questions for this week.

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Mental Health

3 Questions To Ask Your Kids About Suicide Prevention

Delaney Ruston, MD
September 21, 2021
Mental health club at high school

The start of this month was Suicide Prevention Week, and I was so thrilled to talk with teens who organized events in their schools. Many teens also posted educational messages about suicide prevention on their social media feeds.


Speaking of social media, the recently surfaced research by Facebook on its own company Instagram’s negative impact on teens’ mental health ties in well to the importance of today’s blog. 


Many schools around the country are doing a 180-degree shift regarding suicide prevention education — and this is good!  It was practically unheard of just five years ago. That said, it is not yet everywhere, and that is why reading this blog and talking with your children is so important. 


In the Seattle area, Forefront in the Schools is an excellent model. This program was created by a friend of mine, Jennifer Stuber, Ph.D., and her team. The program’s mission is to get information about suicide prevention to parents, teachers, and students. This program uses a method called “train-the-trainer,” wherein parents train parents, teachers train teachers, and students train students. 


For example, teens get trained on suicide prevention via a PowerPoint presentation, and then they go into classrooms at their high schools and use the same  PowerPoint presentation to give their peers the information. For example, they talk about the important point that talking about suicide does not make someone become suicidal — a myth that needs to be eliminated immediately. Teens need to know that if they are worried about a friend, asking them whether they are thinking about suicide can be important. 

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