Ask the Question
Talking with your child or youth in your care about emotional topics, such as their mental health, can feel uncomfortable due to stigma, lack of information or even fear.
If you are a friend, parent, or a concerned adult, and these challenging times are particularly difficult for you or a young person you know, YES is here to help!
And if your child or teen is doing great, they know at least one friend who isn’t doing well.
Knowing how to start a conversation about mental health can be tough. Below we’ve offered some videos, tips, and various resource guides to help.
TALK TO ME - TIPS FROM YOUTH
This video was made in collaboration with youth in the Bellevue School District. We asked dozens of youth how they would like their parents to approach the subject of mental health. The lines in the video are direct quotes from the students.
The video also includes five concrete tips from former YES counselor Michele Brode that parents and adults can use when starting the conversation.
TIPS FROM SUICIDE SURVIVOR KEVIN HINES
Kevin Hines, filmmaker, best-selling author, and suicide survivor, joined YES in 2020 for a virtual event, Conversation about Youth Suicide. He shared some great tips on how to start conversations with teens and how impactful a letter can be.
QUESTIONS TO ASK
I’ve noticed you’re…[list specific behaviors like spending more time alone/sleeping more or less/teary or angry]. I’m concerned and would love to find a time to talk about it.
It’s important to use observable facts that are indisputable rather than judgments or opinions. Don’t give up asking if your first efforts are shut down. And when you’ve found time to talk, make an effort to listen rather than offering advice or solutions upfront.
What’s the hardest thing about being you at the moment?
This question allows your teenager to offer up their challenges without any assumptions. It can lead to a more specific conversation about mental health depending on their answers.
I’m feeling stuck, and I’m not sure how to help you. I’ve been reading up on good mental health and wonder if you’ve noticed yourself feeling…[insert emotions here]? What would it be like to talk to me/the school counselor/therapist, about your feelings?
This approach lets your teen know you don’t have all the answers, and you feel stuck and unsure sometimes, too. It also lets your child know there are experts and help available that they may wish to explore independently or together with you.
I’ve felt depressed or anxious myself at times and noticed you might be experiencing some of the same symptoms. Would you like to talk to me or a counselor about your feelings?
This question lets your child know you’ve also struggled with mental illness or health challenges. This can help your teen understand that they’re not alone. How much of your story you share depends on your relationship with your teen, their age, and the level of self-disclosure that feels right to you. However, never assume your experience is the same as your teenager’s. Everyone has their own mental health journey.
Have you considered suicide?
Many parents and caregivers are wary of asking a child if they have suicidal thoughts, intentions, or plans. But it is an important conversation to have. It is a myth that you will plant the idea in someone’s head if you ask them about suicide. If a person has been thinking of suicide, they will be relieved and grateful that you were willing to be so open and nonjudgmental. It shows the person you genuinely care about and take them seriously. Stay calm, but always take the thought of plans for suicide seriously.
YOUTH SUICIDE PREVENTION PARENT RESOURCE GUIDE
We have created this helpful resource guide for parents concerned about their teens who may be considering suicide. It includes warning signs, what to do if your child says they have considered suicide, and intervention strategies to help. It also includes a list of community resources for parents and teens to connect directly and immediately to trained professionals who could help.
We encourage you to share this resource with others you know are struggling. The file is a print-friendly PDF for your convenience. If you would like many copies, don’t hesitate to get in touch with YES Marketing and Community Relations Manager Lidia Harding at firstname.lastname@example.org
Click the image below to download.
YOUTH SUICIDE AWARENESS INFOGRAPHIC
DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOR THERAPY (DBT) WEBSERIES
If you’re a teen or the parent of a teen who’s having trouble with intense emotions, impulse control, depression, anxiety, substance use, self-harming, or suicide ideation, research shows that Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) can help.
For the convenience of our community, YES counselors have created a FREE web series based on the YES’ 16-week Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Group. The web series includes 16 episodes and involves activities, worksheets, and helpful tips. Each webisode includes 30-40 minutes of content.
Start by building a foundation with Mindfulness, then establish your shelter to weather the storms with Distress Tolerance, then discuss Emotional Regulation to feel more at home in your head, and end the series looking outside ourselves with Interpersonal Effectiveness to link to our communities.
This program is made possible through YES’ partnership with the Lake Washington School District.
DO YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE?
Whether you’re a teen, a caring friend, a parent or a concerned adult, you can read out to YES for help – or simply to ask questions about what services might be best for you and a young person you know.
RESOURCES FOR TEENS
Teen Link Help Line – Call 1(866) TEENLINK (833-6546) Teen Link is a confidential, anonymous, and non-judgmental telephone helpline answered by teens each evening from 6-10 pm. Teen volunteers are trained to listen to your concerns and to talk with you about whatever is on your mind. No issue is too big or too small.
Teen Link Chat – In addition to their telephone helpline, Teen Link offers Teen Link Chat, available through our website at TEENLINK.org. Like the line, teens can use Teen Link Chat to seek support from our teen volunteers on various issues, including bullying, drug and alcohol concerns, relationships, stress, and other teen issues. Teen Link accepts chats from 6-9:30 pm every day of the week. Teen Link Chat does not work well on cell phones, so we ask that you log on with a computer to chat with us.
Crisis Text Line – Text HOME to 741741, Crisis Text Line serves anyone in any type of crisis (doesn’t just mean suicide, it’s any painful emotion for which you need support), providing access to free, 24/7 support and information via a medium people already use and trust: text. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds, all from their secure online platform. The goal of any conversation is to get you to a calm, safe place.
The Trevor Project – Call 1-866-488-7386 The leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25. Text and online chat are also available.
RESOURCES FOR PARENTS
King County Crisis Clinic – Call 866-4CRISIS (427-4747) If you suspect that someone you care about is considering suicide, help is available to support you in helping to intervene. If you are in Seattle-King County, Washington, please call our 24-Hour Crisis Line 866-4CRISIS, or locally 206-461-3222. We can help you determine if there is an imminent risk of suicide. Outside of King County, please call 9-1-1 and ask to be connected to your local crisis helpline
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Text or call the new national crisis number 988 part of a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – A voluntary health organization that gives those affected by suicide a nationwide community empowered by research, education, and advocacy to take action against this leading cause of death.