It seemed fairly obvious to me that those with ADHD have a higher rate of suicide and depression, but I was surprised to learn that according to WebMD research both are 4-6 times more likely to occur in those with ADHD than those without it.
That scares me, and it’s a tricky subject because some research suggests that when you talk to students about suicide it puts the thought in their mind, and they are more likely to try it. Thankfully, recent research is starting to suggest that kids already know about it, so in fact talking about it does just the opposite and helps prevent it.
While technology can exacerbates symptoms of ADHD, it is also a blessing in crisis situations. If you think about it, ADHD minds spin quickly, repetitively and impulsively. One distracting thought of ‘my life would be better if i weren’t here’ can snowball into a suicide attempt in the blink of an eye.
The good news is technology has made it possible for these same kids to get help IMMEDIATELY. There are online groups, suicide hotlines and online support groups. It’s absolutely amazing that there are so many resources at the touch of a button, kids just have to know they are there and how to use them.
The recent research suggests parents talk to children about suicide, and I agree. Unfortunately, if you’re a parent talking to your child, you’ll most likely bring some guilt and shame to that conversation even without knowing it. Just remember it’s not your fault.
Having experienced these issues first hand, some tips I have for parents:
- Talk to your child in a ‘please pass the butter’ voice. If you are too emotional try again.
- Don’t put them on the spot – ‘Are you suicidal?’ can often appear threatening or embarrassing to the child.
- Let them know depression is a medical problem and they are welcome to talk to you or someone anytime, just as they would with their foot or ankle or brain.
- Encourage them to talk to others for support if they are feeling bad, and give them some online resources.
- Let them know that should they ever feel desperate, there are immediate solutions available to them that they should write down / carry with them. Give them a personal friend, a suicide hotline (1-800-suicide), their doctor, a school counselor, and someone else impartial that they trust.
- Let them know that if you are in a fight with them, you still love and accept them and would want them to reach out, if not to you, someone above.
- Remind them that it is a temporary feeling, and it passes. Share stories of similar people that have successfully gotten through it / accomplished great things.
- Soon we will have an online crisis center available as well.
If I knew that it was normal, I wouldn’t have had such panic when those feelings arose. I might not have run from them through various escape routes and actually felt them. And during the times that I felt like my parents were NEVER going to forgive me and that I was the WORST kid ever, I would have had options to talk to people besides just them.
Even if you do not think your child is suicidal / ever has the potential, you never really know. Especially if they have ADHD. I think every parent and person that has ever lost someone to suicide would say that it is much better to be safe and take the risk of talking, then sorry.