Talking to the child or teen is usually the first step to assessing the concern, here are some helpful ways to get started:
- Arrange for discussions to take place in a private space that is comfortable for the child or teen as well as yourself.
- Approach calmly and openly.
- Choose a time without competing priorities such as recess time or time to go home.
- Talk honestly about your concern – perhaps it’s a change in mood or behaviour, or a change in friends and interests – and try to express your concern in a non-blaming manner.
- Reassure the child or teen you are there for them and will support them if there is a decision to seek further help, such as talking to their family or other helpers.
- Ask them what they need from you, giving them some examples of how you can help if they aren’t sure – do they need someone to talk to, someone to check in with periodically, someone to help find ways to cope?
- Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions.
If you are concerned about suicide, you can ask if they have had thoughts of hurting themselves. You should also advise the child or teen that you will need to act to keep them safe should they tell you they have experienced suicidal thinking or behavior. This may involve talking to their family or guardian or even accessing help for them.