Ask your children how they are doing, urges suicide prevention expert – British Columbia

Suicide is still a leading cause of death among young people in B.C. and experts say having open conversations within families can make a difference.

Dr. Tyler Black, a psychiatrist at B.C. Children’s Hospital, has some advice on how to broach what is often a taboo subject in households

“The basic conversation should always start with ‘How are you doing?'” Dr. Black said. “No matter what their answer is, you can always say ‘Is there anything I can do to make it better for you?”

He said that type of response creates a support system where it doesn’t matter if the person is having a good day or a bad day, they know someone is there for them.

“It’s one thing to say that you are there for someone but you always want to create a sense of belonging and support, perhaps even acceptance no matter what the situation is,” he added.

‘You just never know’

Karen Kilba lost her 19-year-old son Duncan to suicide earlier this year.

“I could see Duncan’s struggles,” Kilba said. “I tried to be his soft place to fall so that he had somebody to come to and talk to, but I really don’t think that he showed us, or anyone, the depth of what he was truly feeling.”

She said his death shocked everyone.

“I never thought I would be walking this road, there was no sign and nothing to say that this would happen,” Kilba said. “What it’s taught me is you just never know.”

Dr. Black, who has worked with hundreds of children and adolescents over the past decade, said part of the challenge is how difficult it is to spot someone’s struggles.

‘Not a new word’

“One of the common myths about suicide is that it’s predictable or that there is always warning signs. They are much more subtle than that.”

He said some parents may be concerned about bringing up the topic with their children for fear of putting ideas in their head but open communication is key.

“The research is really clear that this is not a new word to children, even as early as 10 or 11,” he said.

He strongly advised asking questions and making it clear there is support, no matter the response.

If you or someone you know needs help, there is a province-wide crisis line to call. The number is 1-800-SUICIDE.

With files from Daybreak Kamloops. 

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