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If a child asks about or mentions suicide, doctors say it’s time to talk

Nov 10, 2021, 4:07 PM
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SALT LAKE CITY — A recent news headline in Utah involving a child and suicide has been a difficult one for many to comprehend, and it may have led parents to ask themselves how and when to talk with their children about suicide.

The topic came up after reports that ten-year-old Isabella Faith Tichenor had recently died by suicide in North Salt Lake. The fifth-grade girl who was on the autism spectrum had reportedly told her mother she’d been bullied and felt that she wasn’t liked by her teacher.

If your child has ever expressed similar concerns, it is possible to speak with them. But age appropriateness is an important aspect of this conversation.

“The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists recommend that we don’t talk to children about tragic events, or suicide, until about (age) eight, unless they ask,” Dr. Kristen Francis from the Huntsman Mental Health Institute told KSL TV anchor and reporter Mike Headrick.

And that last part is important. She said if a child of any age asks about suicide, that’s the age at which a parent must start talking with their child.

Francis told Headrick that she’s seen kids as young as six and seven struggling with thoughts of suicide. She suggests parents ask a lot of questions if a child starts saying things like ‘life is too hard,’ or ‘something would be better off without them.’

Parents should also know that there is help available. If you fear that your child or anybody you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-TALK) or the Huntsman Mental Health Institute (1-801-583-2500).

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If a child asks about or mentions suicide, doctors say it’s time to talk