"I remember when my son was 16 years old," said Passafiume, a mother of three now-adult children, "and he had got the word that one of his teammates had shot himself. … It's hard to watch a kid unable to process that. But as a parent, [you ask,] 'How does that happen'?"
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That's just one of the questions people ask when suicide hits home. But often those questions go unasked because of the stigma surrounding suicide. World Suicide Prevention Day, held annually Sept. 10, attempts to eliminate not only to help those contemplating suicide but also those dealing with its effects. September also is Suicide Prevention Month.
Recently, two Oak Forest teens took their own lives, leaving parents in the community how to understand the aftermath of such events and how to discuss it with their own kids. Passafiume offered the following strategies to help children understand and also prevent them from considering suicide.
- Be Available: Let your child know that he or she can talk to you anytime. Show that you want to hear what he or she has to say.
- Just Talk: Make sure nothing is off the table when it comes to discussion.
- Know What Your Teen Is Doing: It's not about keeping tabs on your kid day or night. It's about knowing the type of friends he or she is hanging out with. What do they talk about? What kinds of music are your kids listening to?
- It Will Get Better: As Passafiume puts it, let your kid know that suicide is "such a long-term solution for what is probably a short-term problem."
One of the best tools Passafiume recommends comes from The Jason Foundation, an organization dedicated to teen suicide prevention. It's called Project Hug, A Conversation with Your Child, and it comes with a card that you give your child that reads:
I want you to know I will always be here for you. I love you and there is no problem that we can’t get through together. If you ever need to talk, but don’t know where to start, just give me this card. I agree to talk to you without judgement. Regardless of what you say, I will do my best to remain calm. Remember, that I am also human. I may not always do or say the right thing or make the right decision, but I will always love you.
"It's the loss, the loss of the promise of the future," Passafiume said about the tragedy teen suicide.
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"What could I have done? I don't think there's an answer to that," she added. "Being available and knowing what they're doing can help. … There isn't a magic answer."
Even though Oak Forest isn't in Orland Township, Passafiume said residents can call the township's Youth and Family Counseling Services at 708-403-4001 for help in these matters. The township also will be holding a suicide prevention workshop Oct. 23.
Orland Township also is holding its first Illumin8K, an 8K walk and run followed by a celebration, at 7 p.m. Saturday at the township offices, 14807 S. Ravinia Ave, all in support of suicide prevention.
YOUR TURN: Patch encourages readers to use the comments section to discuss ways parents can talk to their children about suicide, as well as how adults can deal with the aftermath of such events. Start a dialogue to help prevent future tragedies.