First, Do Your Own Research
Take care of yourself by understanding your own emotional intelligence and educate yourself about suicide and mental health.
Be authentic. Urge others not to shield their emotions and put on false happy faces. Model this in a conversational, age-appropriate way for others in your own life.
Be thoughtful about the age and the emotional development level of your children and family members. Use these age-appropriate guidelines when talking about suicide:
• Preschoolers (Ages 3 to 5): Will feel the loss but most won’t have the language yet. Most will not understand what death is or that it is forever.
• Early Elementary School (Ages 6 to 8): Many will understand death is permanent and that the person is not coming back—may worry that they somehow caused the death.
• Later Elementary (Ages 9 to 12): Most will understand death is permanent.
Even if mental illness or suicide are not part of our lives, the time to build this vocabulary is now. We all deserve to know how to care for our mental health and how to talk about it. We do better when we know better.
Listen without judgment, interpretation or evaluating. Once our loved ones trust that we are listening for understanding, they’ll be more likely to come to us when they’re hurting or needing advice.
Ask questions and keep conversations going. Don’t put the burden on others to always come to you.
Ask about feelings during the course of the day, not just what someone did during the day.
Normalize the conversation and take away the stigma associated with suicide. Let others know it’s okay not to be okay, and that you—and many other people—want them to be here tomorrow.
• National Suicide Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
• Burrell Crisis Line: 1-800-494-7355
• Burrell connection center/scheduling line: 417-761-5000
• Burrell 24/7 Behavioral Crisis Center: 800 S. Park Ave., Springfield
• Lost and Found Grief Center: (417) 865-9998
• Community Partnership of the Ozarks: (417) 888-2020