3 Questions to Assess Suicide

In the span of a week, three suicides have devastated communities already linked by mass tragedies.  Two were young survivors of last year's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.  The other was the father of a child who was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT.

These recent tragic events continue to highlight  the need for all of us to raise our awareness about suicide and its prevention.  To that end, Columbia University has been working diligently at devloping the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale. This quick and easy-to-use questionnaire may be boiled down to three essential questions to pose to children and adolescents you feel may be at risk (I have offered alternate versions depending on the minor's age and modified some of the wording, but the essence is the same.): 1) "Have you ever wished you were dead/could go to sleep and not wake up?" 2) "Have you ever had any thoughts about harming/killing yourself?" 3) "Have you ever done anything, started to do anything, or created a plan to do anything to end your life?"
If any of these is "Yes", ask if this was within the last three months.** Some parents may be concerned that by introducing this topic they are putting the idea of suicide into an otherwise healthy child's mind.  This is not case.  If your child suffers from Major Depression, there is a decent chance they have thought about the topic of suicide.  If they have never been clinically depressed, discussing the topic will not result in them considering suicide.  If the topic of suicide is foreign to your minor, consider folding it into a broader conversation about the normal range of feelings and differentiate that from Major Depression.  If this still proves difficult for you or your child, reach out to someone you trust for a little help. Consider this info source for more ideas on how to talk to your child or adolescent about suicide. Talking to Your Kids About Suicide   Dr. S  
**(If any of this has ever occurred, I urge you to please seek out the aid of a professional.)