29 Sep The Ripple Effect of Suicide on Children
The death of a parent is a traumatic event that can leave a lasting impact on those who have lost their loved ones. Losing a parent to suicide can be even more traumatic than losing a parent from natural causes. Studies from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh show that losing a parent to suicide, accident or natural death in childhood had a negative impact on the academic and social performance of children and increased the risk of developing mental health disorders. The children affected had higher rates of depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) than children who did not experience loss.
Risk Factors for Suicide
John Hopkins researchers estimate that 7,000 to 12,000 children in the United States lose a parent to suicide each year and were more likely to take their own lives than children and teens with living parents. Other risk factors of suicide in youth include:
- Mental health or substance abuse disorders
- Impulsive behavior
- Recent losses including the death of a parent
- Family history of mental health issues or substance abuse
- Family history of Suicide
- Family violence or other forms of abuse
- Past suicide attempts
- Access to means
- Exposure to the suicidal behavior of other
Ways to Support Children
Although there are many factors that play a role in the likelihood of a child completing suicide after a parent’s death, many of those factors can be decreased with the help of a licensed therapist. Another critical aspect of helping children heal is to provide family support, especially during the early stages after loss has occurred. According to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, there are many ways to support a child after the death of a family member:
- Be open and honest
- Be understanding about their way of coping with grief
- Allow children to be a part of funerals
- Show emotion to create an environment where feelings are normalized
- Don’t make up other words to explain death
Where to Seek Help
CHRIS Counseling Centers provide therapy, support groups and mental health programs for substance use disorders. If you know someone at risk of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, or text 988 to be connected to a trained crisis counselor. Visit CHRIS 180’s YouTube page to hear from expert panelists about suicide prevention and other mental health resources.
Chris180.org provides essential Suicide Prevention Month Training to empower individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to prevent suicide and promote mental health.
Dr. Anne Cornell, PhD, LPC, is the Chief Clinical Officer of CHRIS 180.