How to discuss suicide prevention, awareness with your child

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Counselors were available again Monday for students at Wichita Southeast High School as they continue to deal with the death of a 15-year-old student who died by suicide last week.

Deidre Manis, a program manager at Comcare's Crisis Center, says her organization is like an emergency room for mental health. She says the center offers assistance to adults, teenagers and children who are in crisis and possibly considering suicide.

We know the suicide is a difficult topic to discuss. Eyewitness News reporter Rachel Skytta sat down with Manis and asked her a series of questions to help parents approach the topic with their own children.

How do I talk to my teenager about suicide?

Manis says the most important thing is to make the conversation safe for them.

"You help them know that you're a safe person to talk to and that it's okay to talk about that," says Manis. "I think it's also important that there's no shame involved in that. That it's okay, it's normal that you might be feeling that way and you can talk to me about that."

What are the warning signs of suicide? Are they different in teenagers than in adults?

Manis says you might a teen might isolate themselves and not engage in things like they normally would, withdrawing from others.

"I think another thing that we see with teenagers is they may be posting things on social media, and I think that's that one way that they know how to verbalize their concerns and their feelings," she says.

When should a concerned parent seek help for their child or teen?

"I think at any point that you are concerned that your child or family member is having those thoughts of suicide," says Manis.

She says if you ask them if they're considering harming themselves, but they say they're not, but you're seeing the warning signs, seek help.

"It's okay to call us and talk over the phone even to get some ideas of what to do next," says Manis.

Comcare's Crisis Center offers 24/7 assistance to anyone who needs it by calling 316-660-7500. Anyone who calls the hotline will speak with a trained case manager who will work with the person on whatever they're going through.

Other options available for people in emotional distress include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. There's also an online chat option available. It's also monitored 24/7.