Trigger warning: This post deals with issues of self-harm, depression and suicide and some readers may find it triggering.
Suicide is the leading killer of Australian youth. That’s right, not the cars that we worry so much about, the booze or even the pot that parents go out of their mind over. It’s indisputable according to the ABS that suicide is killing more of our kids than all of the above, with up to 49% of Australian youths contemplating suicide this is an epidemic.
On the back of this horrifying fact Anti-bullying organisation, Champions against Bullying recently released a powerful 46-second video showing young people’s messages to friends who have taken their own lives. This tear jerking video has one simple message: “Be nice. Now.”
While the video is focused on bullying and is urging young people to adapt their behaviour, I couldn’t help but think that parents could benefit from this message too. Bullying is not the only cause and young people are not the only ones who can prevent kids taking their own lives. In recent weeks a 14-year-old British teenager named Elisabeth took her own life because she believed she may be gay, and was terrified to tell her devout Christian parents the news.
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Rightly or wrongly Elizabeth believed that the wrath of her parents would be so bad that taking her own life was an easier way out. Elizabeth’s father spoke out saying that his little girl would have been showered with nothing but love and “a wealth of acceptance.” Lizzie’s fears were unfounded, but she did not know that. Why is it that we have to wait till it is too late to tell our loved ones that our love for them is unconditional and without reservation?
According to the Centre for Adolescent Health, Australia, the rise in suicide is most rapid between the ages of 15 and 19 but there is a further increase between the ages of 20 to 24 years. We are however seeing cases as young as 12 years old where children believe (mostly unfounded) that the only way to deal with their pain is to end it all.
As a parent can you really say you know what your kids are feeling or getting up to when you are not around? Rae Panlock mother of 19 year old Brodie Panlock who took her own life after being horrifically bullied in the workforce says “Brodie was a happy, healthy normal teenager who showed no signs of distress”.
All parents want to protect their children and some go to extremes to do so yet very few indulge in the most basic preventive measure, talking to your kids.
Some tips to open dialogue with your kids
Find a newsworthy topic to start conversation not necessarily relating it to them e.g. this article, A TV news story etc. say something like “why wouldn’t a parent accept a child no matter what” this makes it non confronting but shows your acceptance
Spend time with them to allow them to open up. Do something they like that you don’t just to be around and allow conversation to flow
Drive them places like the old days even if you don’t need to, Idle chatter can lead to the best conversations
Sit down to dinner. Yes, it’s not rocket science but try and make a regular sit down dinner and actually talk
Don’t be perfect. Talk about mistakes you made and when you disappointed your parents, show them it’s ok not to be perfect
Be direct. If you are comfortable with it, then just be direct. Sit them down and tell them straight you love them no matter what they do or who they choose to be. EVEN if you don’t think they have anything to hide do this just in case
Check yourself – Don’t assume your kid is perfect and it will never happen to you. Think about what you say in front of your kids and how it might impact their ability to talk to you.
There are many horrific diseases and circumstances that can lead to the loss of loved ones, yet the main killer is totally within our control and avoidable, the question is what you are doing to avoid it?
If you or someone you love is showing signs of depression or suicidal signs contact lifeline on 131114 or www.lifeline.org.au