What will we tell our children about suicide?
THE death of Robin Williams this week has had a profound impact on both young and old.
The actor and comedian starred in many children's films, and parents, teachers and other adults may find themselves being asked by children and adolescents about suicide.
The centre manager at headspace Maroochydore, Donna Allen, said such questions were challenging ones to answer.
"If you're asked about suicide by a child or adolescent it's important to speak to them in a way they understand," Ms Allen said.
"Be truthful, but also be mindful to only give them as much information as they need.
"They sometimes don't need more information than they're asking for."
Ms Allen also said it was a good opportunity to open up a dialogue with the young person to discuss where they can go to get support should they need it, or if they think any of their friends need support.
Jill Fisher of East Coast Standby echoed these sentiments, suggesting that if children were curious about what happened to Robin Williams then the story could be used as an opportunity for people to connect.
"Find out what they already know and understand about it and let them know it's okay for us all to show emotion," Ms Fisher said.
"Move away from any sense of blame and explain that we have sad and happy times in life, and that's something children can understand."
Simple language is important, according to Ms Fisher.
She said there were websites such as conversationsmatter.com.au should people want to go into more detail about suicide.
"For example you could say someone wanted to stop their body working, like a car stops working, and we don't want that to happen to anyone else," Ms Fisher said.
The general advice is to be truthful and that it's preferable to tell the child as soon as possible so they don't have to fill in any gaps on their own.
Services and support
- headspace Maroochydore - 5409 5900, http://www.headspace.org.au
- East Coast Standby - 0407 766 961, www.unitedsynergies.com.au
- Lifeline - 13 11 14, http://www.kidshelp.com.au
- Kids Helpline - 1800 55 1800, http://www.lifeline.org.au
Useful phrases to use if discussing suicide with children:
- "Do you know what being dead means?"
- "Is there anything you want to tell me about what you are thinking or feeling?"
- "Suicide is when someone makes their body stop working"
- "Suicide is the word we use when a person does something to make themselves die"
- "People who die by suicide are often very sad and upset. They can get confused and can't find another way to solve their problems."