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Jennifer Brinker talks about National Suicide Prevention week

Jennifer Brinker talks about what parents need to know and the warning signs of depression with children.

INDIANAPOLIS — What are the warning signs that parents should be looking out for with their children?

Parents need to look out for any major changes in their child. This can include sudden changes in appearance/hygiene, sudden drops in their grades, social withdrawal, increase in alcohol or drug use, and obviously engaging in self-harm behaviors. Sometimes kids will also begin to talk about being depressed, so that is a more obvious thing to watch out for.

So what do parents need to do if some of these warning signs are popping up?

Well communication is key. You have to honestly and openly communicate your concern to your child. Some parents feel like if they mention suicide/depression to their child, it will plant the idea in their heads, but this isn’t accurate. Your kid needs to see that you are noticing these behaviors and that you are genuinely concerned.

What about people who might say that it is just attention seeking behavior?

Well if a kid is willing to go to these measures to get attention, some attention should be given to them. I would also say that they don’t just need the attention of their parents if these things are happening, but they need professional guidance and counseling as well. Keep in mind that underreacting to a threat has much more severe consequences than overreacting to concerning statements/behaviors.

If your child denies being suicidal or isn’t making outward statements about depression, but shows some of the warning signs, what should parents do?

I would encourage them to continue to check in and openly communicate with their child. Parents, you know your child better than anyone, so if you sense that something is wrong, trust your gut and seek out professional help. I would also suggest letting someone from the school, ideally the counselor, know what’s going on so that they can keep an eye out. Again, I will stress that the consequences of failing to act are much more severe than potentially overreacting.  

What are schools doing to battle this depression crisis?

A huge initiative in Indiana schools right now is social and emotional learning. We are starting to teach kids from a very young age how to recognize and understand their feelings as well as strategies to use that will help get them to their baseline. Teachers complete training on suicide prevention every year as well so that we know what to watch for. 

More resources below: 

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide

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