Suicide at school: How to talk to your kids



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Posted on October 15, 2013 at 10:13 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 16 at 2:39 PM

AUSTIN -- Parents may wonder how they can help kids process the suicide at Lanier High School. Traumatic events like this one can affect the witnesses and children who hear about it.

In an interview with KVUE on Tuesday Dr. Michael Telch explains the differences between perfectly healthy behavior and what might be a cause for concern. He says they can be different for every child.

"There are certain reactions that are very common," said Dr. Michael Telch, a University of Texas professor of psychology.

Whether you see trauma first hand, or on the news, Dr. Telch said don't hide your reaction.

"It could be guilt. It could be anger, sadness, and sometimes even shame,” he said.

It's also not uncommon to have trouble sleeping, initially. For most people those feelings will subside, but not for everyone.

"To the extent the child expresses some very significant personal thread connected to what they've heard or what they've experienced that would be a red flag,” said Dr. Telch.

Talk to your children. Dr. Telch says parents should keep in mind that when they're children are struggling, there are often signs.

"They should look for avoidance. Notice a change in a child's typical behavior or emotions," he said.
Withdrawing from people, extra-curricular activities, or a drop in grades may all be indications of a deeper issue.

Dr. Telch said Tuesday’s suicide can also be a lesson of when to ask for help. He says if someone mentions hurting themselves, or someone else, take that seriously.

"Death is irreversible. Even if it's unlikely to happen, (it’s) better to err on the side of safety. Because you can't take it back," he said.

Click here for the complete raw interview with Dr. Telch.