Study finds many parents unaware of suicidal thoughts in children

The CDC says suicide among teens and young adults has nearly tripled since the 1940's. While it may be hard to hear, parents could play a large role in the issue.

Posted: Jan. 21, 2019 6:35 PM
Updated: Jan. 21, 2019 7:19 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - The CDC says suicide among teens and young adults has nearly tripled since the 1940's. While it may be hard to hear, parents could play a large role in the issue.

According to a new study published in the medical journal Pediatrics, half of parents are unaware that their adolescent child has had thoughts of suicide. It's a scary statistic to think of because how do you fix a problem you don't know about?

The study included more than 5 thousand kids aged 11 to 17.

News 10 spoke with Missy Burton of Child and Adolescent Services with the Hamilton Center. She says she's starting to see talk of suicide and death in younger patients. This includes elementary-aged students. Burton says one reason this may be is kids can easily be influenced by the world around them.

She explains, "Sometimes they may hear that from other people, but without completely understanding what it means. It may have been something we did when we were younger but we used different words. You know, 'I wish I would've never been born, or I wish I wasn't in this family'. Some way to indicate I'm under stress. But I believe they hear that phrase. We've had children who say they've heard it actually from parents, heard it from older siblings, heard it from other kids at school, so they begin to use it to express their frustration."

Just because suicidal talk at a younger age could mean a child doesn't know how to express their feelings, doesn't mean it isn't something to take seriously. Burton says it's important to sit down with your child and face the issue head-on.

If you're uncomfortable doing so, she suggests reaching out to a school counselor or another trained professional like someone from the Hamilton Center.

This January marks three years since a tragic anniversary in Sharon Vorek's life.

Vorek shares, "I was in Florida and I received a call from my daughter he had taken his own life."

Chip Vorek took his life at the age of 50, leaving behind a wife and son. Vorek says after her son's death she became involved in a local Suicide Survivor's Support Group called Team of Mercy. She says she's learned a lot through meeting regularly with the group.
Vorek explains, "This is an illness, it's depression, it's bi-polar. And for my own self, I didn't have any idea my son had any problems."

Looking back, Vorek says there signs she may have missed.

She shares, "He started getting rid of a lot of things that he had. He loved to read, and he got rid of many of his books. Sleeping a lot, he slept a lot. He still held down a job, but he didn't care to go out in public."

Missy Burton says no matter your child's age, it's imperative to talk with them about suicide sooner rather than later.

Burton explains, "Just saying, 'Hey, I've noticed a few things and I want to have a conversation'. And even saying, 'This may be a hard conversation, you may feel upset, but I really am exploring this because I'm worried about you.' Not accusing or making a child feel as if you're blaming them."

As for Vorek, she says for anyone struggling for the courage to talk with a child about suicide, to push through their anxiety about it.

She reflects, "It's just not supposed to happen this way. That you lose your children before you go yourself."

There is help 24 hours a day if you are considering taking your own life. That's the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The number is 1-800-273-8255.

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