ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — September 4th-10th is Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. This week exists to shine a light on the ways people can help someone they know who may be struggling, and how to have authentic, caring conversations about suicide and mental health.

According to the CDC, suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people, and for youth ages 10-14, suicide is the second leading cause of death.

“What we’re seeing that I think is particularly concerning, is that the average age of suicide is decreasing, and the rates for suicide in preadolescent and adolescent children is increasing,” said Clinical Psychologist Dr. Rudy Nydegger.

Dr. Nydegger said it is difficult to pin down one cause for this increase in youth suicides. He did point out that life in general, and for pre-teens and teenagers especially, continues to become more complicated.

“I think the factors related to suicide have been changing. In other words, the things that prompt suicidal thinking or suicidal actions have become much more complex and much more widespread,” he explained.

He added that kids have much easier access to information online and through television and movies than ever before. Dr. Nydegger said parents shouldn’t shy away from difficult topics like these. Instead, they should seize opportunities for meaningful and productive conversations.

“Too often, I think parents are afraid of talking about suicide because they don’t want to give their kid an idea about it, but you can certainly be sure that kids are aware these things go on,” Dr. Nydegger told NEWS10.

Dr. Nydegger went on to say the two mistakes parents often make are avoiding the issue at all, or the other extreme: Frequent, long lectures with too much detailed information. It doesn’t have to be a very lengthy conversation, but Dr. Nydegger recommends that if kids ask questions about suicide, or it comes up in the news or other forms of media, briefly talking about the seriousness or sad reality of the issue can be effective.

“The important thing to know is there’s always help when someone’s feeling like that,” he said.

Dr. Nydegger encourages parents to be in tune with their own child’s behavior. Withdrawing from usual parts of daily life, becoming quiet and closed off when the child is usually outgoing, can be signs that something is wrong. It may not be a direct sign of suicidal thoughts, but it could point to one of a number of mental health issues. 

Mental illness is treatable, and suicidal thoughts can go away or improve over time. There is help, and there is hope.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is now the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, although the previous 1-800-273-TALK number will continue to function indefinitely. 988 became the new dialing code back in July. Veterans can press 1 after dialing 988 for the Veterans Crisis Line. There are also multiple lifelines for specific groups, like LGBTQ+ youth. More information can be found on the website for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Resources

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

National Alliance on Mental Illness

988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline Website

Albany County Department of Mental Health