Eve of new school year a good chance to talk to young people about suicide

- A person dies by suicide every 12.8 minutes in the United States. One in seven are children. 

But pediatric mental health experts say there's a way to bring that number down. With school starting soon, now is the perfect time to have a crucial conversation. 

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 10 to 19 year olds. Nationally, we lose more than 2,000 children and teens per year.

"To put that into context, we think about 9/11 where we lost 3,000 individuals. And every 18 months, we basically have another 9/11," says Dr. John Ackerman from the Center for Suicide Prevention & Research at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "We have, really, an obligation to do more to prevent this national public health issue."

It's a tough topic, but you can approach suicide prevention the same way you do other safety or health issues with your child. Dr. Ackerman says it's safe to directly ask your child, "Have you ever considered ending your life?"

"Talking to a young person directly about suicide does not increase their risk for suicide, but it does really increase the chances that they'll talk to us and get help they need," he says.

"I had that direct conversation. When I was 13 I ran away from home. When I got home my parents asked me that same thing; they asked me if I was considering suicide and I flat out said yes. Because of that it was easier to talk to them," says Deylyn Medina. 

Dr. Ackerman is partnering with schools to keep the conversation going in the classroom.

"It's really important for us to start this conversation early and work specifically with schools and talk to parents because, really, 50 percent of mental health issues start by the age of 14," he says.

"If you don't ask, you'll look back and be like, 'It's too late.' You never want to have an it's-too-late moment," Medina says. 

If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text 741-741.

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