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How To Talk To Your Kids About Suicide Based On Age

How to speak to your child about suicide: Age-Based Guidance

PARENT ALERT: What is a “Back to School Necklace”? What parents need to know about.

Author: Gill Dufour

As summer approaches, it’s normal to hear about all the things in school. Shopping is an activity that’s all too common to hear about at the moment—after all, going to the store for new school clothes and accessories is exciting for both kids and parents.

But if you hear students discussing back-to-school necklaces, it’s important to note that they’re not talking about new, cute jewelry. Instead, it’s a disturbing phrase (which on the surface doesn’t sound alarming) you might hear in conversation or see on social media. So what exactly is a back-to-school defeat? We explain.

What is a “back-to-school defeat”?
Urban Dictionary describes the back necklace of the school as “another name for the noose”. This is entirely because of the frustration you feel when school resumes.

Some examples of its use include: “I’m about to buy my back-to-school necklace,” “I can’t wait to get that back-to-school necklace,” “With that back-to-school necklace.” thinking about,” “That back-to-school necklace is calling me,” “I can’t wait to wear my back-to-school necklace,” etc.

So, although the necklace behind the school seems innocent enough to those who are unaware of its true meaning, it is actually a cry for help as it is a code for death by hanging.

How should parents talk about this trending back-to-school necklace phrase with their kids?
If you’re not sure how to talk about it, Samantha Westhouse, LLMSW, a psychotherapist and mother-child health social worker, recommends letting your child lead the conversation. “Start off by saying, ‘I heard about this thing called a back-to-school necklace—do you know anything about it?’” she advises. “I think an open conversation is always beneficial. It’s always important to avoid judgment so that your child feels comfortable sharing how they’re feeling.”

A lot can happen than just trying to check in. “Parents should feel empowered to talk to their children about mental health in general,” explains Emily Cavallari, LLMSW, a school social worker and child and family therapist. And in regards to back-to-school conversations, she adds, “Share personal stories about starting school each year, especially if you had feelings of dread as a child. Tell them you can teach them through any medium.” Feel the feelings or seek professional help if needed.”

Why are there so many fears among students as the school year approaches?
Some of the apprehension is understandable as students look forward to adjusting to a new normal after the summer months. “Returning to school can be overwhelming for many reasons,” shares Cavallari. “Some students struggle with ideas of a new school, a new teacher, a new schedule, etc. Students are going from a sleepy and relaxed schedule to early mornings and busy days.”

And at times, this struggle seems insurmountable for the students. After all, the CDC has revealed, “more than 1 in 3 high school students experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2019, a 40 percent increase since 2009.”

Westhouse elaborates, “I think it could be a combination of what looks like socialization on top of the age of the last two years.” “If we think about it now, 13-year-olds were 10 years old when we were all in lockdown. [They were] Virtually schooling and missing out on regular clubs, sports and socialization. Add to that the mass school shootings over the years and what we’ve experienced in our world. It all makes an impact.”

What warning signs should parents pay attention to?
“If someone is using this phrase, there is a high chance that they are struggling with their mental health,” Cavallari says. “Whether your child is seriously contemplating suicide or they use this phrase as a cry for help, signs you can look for [include] spending time alone, acting out, irritability, crying easily and frequently, sleeping more than usual, difficulty sleeping, loss of interest in things they used to enjoy, giving stuff up and overall behavior changes.”

Even if you haven’t heard your child use this phrase, it may be a phrase they use on their phone, explains Cavallari. “They can use it via text or social media platforms,” ​​she says. “Parents need to be aware of their children’s electronic use. Students of any age will be using this phrase and feeling these feelings, hence the symptoms in their children from young children to teens.” seek.”

What should students know about hearing or using the phrase “back-to-school-necklace” with friends?
“Students should be aware that using this phrase is very serious,” warns Cavallari. “It’s not okay to joke about harming themselves and especially killing themselves. If they’re really feeling these feelings, they shouldn’t be ashamed and seek help. If students use this phrase While listening to or seeing their friends, they should tell an adult, even if their friend tells them not to.”

Westhouse agrees, adding that even if your child or teen is quick to brush it off, they should know that “it’s serious, even if they think it’s a joke. I recommend you educate your child.” And if they see their friends using this phrase to address it with school staff.”

What resources are recommended to help children and teens who are feeling overwhelmed by the thought of returning to school?
Parents are able to be the first line of support for their children. The CDC recommends that parents “monitor their teen to facilitate healthy decision-making,” “enjoy shared activities with their teen,” and with the school by regularly volunteering or communicating with teachers and administrators. Join.

Westhouse will also advocate for schools to create a policy to help students. According to the CDC report, before the pandemic in 2019, “nearly 1 in 6 youth reported planning suicide in the past year, a 44% increase since 2009.”

To help your child feel less overwhelmed by going back to school, Cavallari recommends preparing for school early by “organizing, going to school/walking.” [their] Schedule, sleep and eat healthy, if permitted.”

Ultimately, knowledge is power, and knowing that this is an issue affecting many children and teens means that parents can have greater awareness and receive additional support. Westhouse and Cavallari both recommend seeking medical attention as well as using the new 988 suicide helpline when needed.

9-8-8 is the 9-1-1 for Mental Health

The United States’ first nationwide three-digit mental health crisis hotline went live on Saturday, July 16. It is designed to be as easy to remember and use as 911, but instead of a dispatcher sending police, firefighters or paramedics, 988 will connect callers with trained mental health counselors.

The federal government has provided over $280 million to help states create systems that will do much more, including mobile mental health crisis teams that can be sent to people’s homes and emergency mental health centers, similar to urgent care clinics that treat physical aches and pains.

“This is one of the most exciting things that has happened” in mental health care, said Dr Brian Hepburn, a psychiatrist who heads the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.

Hepburn cautions that when 988 kicks off, it will not be like “the flick of a switch. It’s going to take a number of years in order for us to be able to reach everybody across the country.”

Some states already have comprehensive mental health crisis systems, but others have a long way to go. And widespread shortages of mental health specialists are expected to slow their ability to expand services.

A RAND Corp survey published last month found that fewer than half of state or regional public health officials were confident about being ready for 988, which is expected to generate an influx of calls.

Nearly 60% said call-center staffers had specialized suicide prevention training; half said they had mobile crisis response teams available 24/7 with licensed counselors; and fewer than one-third had urgent mental-health care units.

The 988 system will build on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, an existing network of over 200 crisis centers nationwide staffed by counselors who answer millions of calls each year — about 2.4 million in 2020. Calls to the old lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, will still go through even with 988 in place.

“If we can get 988 to work like 911 … lives will be saved,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Dispatching paramedics for heart attacks and police for crimes makes sense — but not for psychiatric emergencies, mental health advocates say. Calls to 911 for those crises often lead to violent law enforcement encounters and trips to jail or crowded emergency rooms where suicidal people can wait days for treatment.

The 988 system “is a real opportunity to do things right,” said Hannah Wesolowski of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Sustained funding will be needed. According to the National Academy of State Health Policy, four states have enacted laws to impose telecommunications fees to support 988 and many others are working on the issue.

A desperate call to a Utah state senator in 2013 helped spark the idea of a three-digit mental health crisis line.

Senator Daniel Thatcher says a good friend sought his help after taking his suicidal son to an emergency room, only to be told by a doctor to come back if the boy hurt himself.

Thatcher has battled depression, and at 17 he also considered suicide. He knew that despondent people in crisis may lack the wherewithal to seek out help or to remember the 10-digit national suicide lifeline number.

Thatcher found that many of Utah’s in-state crisis lines went straight to police dispatchers or voicemail. He wondered why there was no 911 service for mental health, and the idea got national attention after he mentioned it to longtime Sen Orrin Hatch.

In 2020, Congress passed the bill designating the 3-digit crisis number and then-President Donald Trump signed it into law.

Thatcher’s mother was a nurse and knew where to get him help. He says 988 has the potential to make it that easy for others.

“If you get help, you live. It really is that simple,” Thatcher said.


NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has published a comprehensive FAQ site — review it by visiting

The Q&A content of the site highlights the following:

Can I only call or text 988 if I am experiencing a life-threatening crisis?

No, you can call or text 988 for yourself or a loved one if you are in any type of emotional distress. However, if you are not in a crisis, there are other services that may meet your current needs better, including a peer-support Warmline for emotional support or the NAMI HelpLine (1-800-950-NAMI or for information, resources and support.

How can I reach 988? Only by phone?

You can call 988, text 988 or chat via the Lifeline’s website (

What happens when I call 988? What information will I receive, or does the Lifeline only offer immediate crisis support?

The goal of the 988 Lifeline is to provide free, confidential, immediate crisis intervention and support. When you call or text or chat 988:

  1. You’ll hear a message that you’ve reached the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — you are in the right place! If you are a veteran, you can press “1” to reach the Veterans’ Crisis Line or “2” to reach the Spanish subnetwork for the Lifeline.
  2. If you don’t select either option, a trained crisis counselor will answer.
  3. The counselor will listen to you to understand how your problem is affecting you or your loved one.
  4. The counselor will provide support and share resources and referrals.

In some communities, the crisis line may be able to connect you to additional services or follow up with you to ensure you’ve connected with care (note: not all communities have this capacity).

Can I only call 988 for myself, or can I call for someone else I know or see in crisis?

You can call or text 988 if you are concerned about someone else in distress who may need crisis support.

Does 988 collect my information/data? What do they do with that information?

All contacts with the 988 Lifeline from people seeking help are confidential. According to the Lifeline FAQs, information about callers/chatters/texters will not be shared outside the Lifeline without documented verbal or written consent from the person seeking help, except in cases where there is imminent risk of harm to self or someone else, or where otherwise required by law.

The Lifeline protects all the confidential and identifying information shared. During your contact with the 988 Lifeline, you may voluntarily share certain information about yourself that could be identified, and that information may be documented in notes about your conversation. The center may also have access to the phone number or IP address you used to contact the Lifeline.

You will never be required to provide other identifying information to receive help from the Lifeline. The Lifeline may use de-identified and aggregated data for reports to stakeholders, funders and policymakers about the numbers and types of conversations they have with people in crisis. They might also reference the general aggregate demographics of people seeking help from the Lifeline.

CTMirror and Associated Press content from Lindsay Tanner is used in this report.

For More Information on 9-8-8

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