Kate Spade is the most recent celebrity to bring suicide and suicide prevention back into the spotlight. So often people close to the victim never see it coming. This is so tragic for the survivors. They are often left with feelings of blame, anger, and shame.

The New York Times quoted Kate’s husband, Andy, as saying, “Kate suffered from depression and anxiety for many years. She was actively seeking help and working closely with her doctors to treat her disease, one that takes far too many lives. We were in touch with her the night before and she sounded happy. There was no indication and no warning that she would do this. It was a complete shock. And it clearly wasn’t her. There were personal demons she was battling.”

After beloved actor Robin Williams took his life I asked my counselor friend Lucille Zimmerman to write an article for me about How to Recognize the Difference Between Grief and Depression. Lucille provided 10 potential indicators of depression:

1. An inability to experience enjoyment
2. A grim outlook for the future
3. A persistent, uncharacteristic negative self-view
4. Inappropriate guilt and remorse
5. Feeling as if a veil or a wall separates him from others.
6. Early morning waking
7. Pronounced weight loss
8. The predominate mood is hopelessness and despair and a feeling that this dark mood will never end
9. The future is bleak
10. The person’s thoughts are almost consistently gloomy

As parents, what do we need to know?

We need to be informed. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people in the U.S. (Previously it was third on the list but has moved into the second position.) It accounts for 18 percent of the deaths among those 15-24 years of age with accidents coming in at number one. The CDC states that, “Boys are more likely than girls to die from suicide. Of the reported suicides in the 10 to 24 age group, 81 percent of the deaths were males and 19 percent were females.”

As parents what can we watch for?

We can be aware of the 10 indicators of depression listed above and we can look for these warning signs:

  1. Thinking or talking about suicide. When a child does this, take it seriously. Sometimes we pass it off as an attention-getter or threat. Better to be safe than wrong regarding motivation. (No matter the motive, something isn’t right if this is being stated.) Investigate and get help.
  2. Googling ways to kill oneself. One of my parent coaching clients told me her young person found a website that describes ways for a person to take their life. (I am not going to post a link here for safety reasons.) Check your computer history if you are concerned your child may be looking into this.
  3. Increased use or abuse of drugs or alcohol. (Read 5 Reasons Why Teens Use Drugs and 20 Indicators of Substance Abuse.)
  4. Withdrawal from people and activities.
  5. Mood swings.
  6. Unusual and extreme anger.
  7. A lack of personal hygiene and not bathing for many days.
  8. Exposure to the suicide of a family member, friend, or peer.
  9. Feelings of hopelessness.
  10. Feelings of purposelessness.

If you see these behaviors manifesting in your child seek help. Your child may not just be sad but actually clinically depressed. 

What can we do?

We can do our best to strengthen our relationship with our kids. Spend time together and talk with one another. We can share our stories of personal struggle so our kids know struggle is normal. They need to know we understand what disappointment and discouragement feels like—not to discount their experience but to empathize. We must move out of the way and allow our kids to experience unhappiness (I know we don’t like this but life is filled with both happy and unhappy stuff) and challenge so they build up their perseverance and resilience muscles. There is no shame in failure. It is the  best way to learn. It is critical we impress upon our children that we love and care about them, and those feelings are NOT performance or perfection based. We can model how to navigate disappointment and express sadness in  healthy and constructive ways.

Mental health issues are real and can manifest in any family. None of us are immune. One of my kids has wrestled with anxiety and depression and has contemplated suicide. This is scary stuff. There is NO shame in getting help. (By the way, she has been very public about her struggles and I have her permission to share this piece of sensitive information to help others.) 

We must help our kids embrace hope and purpose. They need to know suffering is temporary and that God created them on purpose for a purpose. They  need to believe they are never alone. God is always with them. He is with them in the struggles and successes. He is with them to comfort, protect, defend, care for, guide, encourage and help. God is our children’s helper. And He is ours, too. 

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lordthe Maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121: 1-2
 
You may also want to read:
 
 

 

Want more stories of love, family, and faith from the heart of every home, delivered straight to you? Sign up here! 

Ten Warning Signs of Teen Suicide All Parents Must Know #teens #suicide
 
So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Lori Wildenberg

Lori  Wildenberg, is passionate about helping families build connections that last a lifetime. She meets parents where they are with her warmth, transparency, humor, and straight-forward, faith-filled approach. Lori is an author, licensed parent-family educator, co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting ministry, lead mentor mom with the Moms Together Facebook Community, national speaker, and parent coach. Her 5th parenting book Messy Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections (New Hope Publishers) will be released in August 2018 and is available for preorder over at Amazon. The Wildenberg home is nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. A perfect day in Lori’s world is a hike with her Tom (her hubby), five kids (four plus a daughter-in-love), and Murphy– the family labradoodle! For more information or to connect with Lori go to www.loriwildenberg.com 

You’ve been Gone a Year, So Why Does It Feel Like Yesterday?

In: Grief, Loss
Old photo of mother hugging her young daughter, color photo

In February, you will have been gone a year. How is that right? It was just yesterday. I still remember the day we got the diagnosis. One I knew was coming but still prayed wasn’t true. I still remember promising you that everything was going to be okay, and knowing that it wasn’t. I still remember the first time I saw you and thought to myself, “The dementia is moving too fast.” It was just yesterday. I still feel your hand in mine as I sat next to you in the hospital bed. You were talking and humming along while...

Keep Reading

God Redeemed the Broken Parts of My Infertility Story

In: Faith, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Two young children walking on a path near a pond, color photo

It was a Wednesday morning when I sat around a table with a group of mamas I had just recently met. My youngest daughter slept her morning nap in a carrier across my chest. Those of us in the group who held floppy babies swayed back and forth. The others had children in childcare or enrolled in preschool down the road. We were there to chat, learn, grow, and laugh. We were all mamas. But we were not all the same. I didn’t know one of the mom’s names, but I knew I wanted to get to know her because she...

Keep Reading

Growing Slowly around the Grief of Losing Your Mom

In: Grief, Loss
Sad woman sitting on couch with folded arms

Everyone has heard about the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Society often assumes the stages of grief happen in order, but those who encounter grief know that’s not true. Undergoing grief can feel like riding a rollercoaster blindfolded—disorienting and chaotic. There are numerous ups, downs, and twists you wouldn’t anticipate. Grief is like an ocean. When waves come crashing, it feels like you’re being swept away. Regardless of their size, waves are always rough. Despite everything, you also get pushed forward to the shore after every wave. Sometimes, you may feel like you are drowning...

Keep Reading

The Shattering Grief of Suicide

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Sad person sitting in darkened hallway, black and white image

Navigating through my second Christmas without my dad, the weight of grief seemed even heavier this year. In fact, everything felt and looked different to me. As I unwrapped the ornaments and cards he gave me over the years, a tidal wave of madness and sadness engulfed me. I know many feel sadness and grieve during these times, but let me just say . . . suicide is a different type of grief. My vibrant, happy, physically fit dad committed suicide on April 30th, 2022. There, I said it. In the aftermath, a myriad of emotions consumed me. One perplexing...

Keep Reading

Dear Dad, Maybe You’re the Bird

In: Grief, Loss
Young girl sitting on father's lap, older color photo

Maybe you’re the bird. The one I see outside my door. The one who flies so low it seems you’re somehow weighted down. Like you’re carrying more than just yourself. Like you’re carrying a message. Just for me. Maybe you’re the rain. The sound I hear that reminds me so much of home. Of you. Of driving in your car as a little girl when you looked over and asked my opinion about everything. When you made someone so small feel so very big. RELATED: Dad Left a Legacy in Fried Green Tomatoes Maybe you’re the butterfly. The one I...

Keep Reading

I Hope You Never Know What it’s Like to Forget Who You Are

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Woman staring at camera, black-and-white photo

I write best when I’m passionate. It’s always been my release. But lately, I’ve struggled to write. I’ve struggled to find purpose in my words. It’s all been twisted and choppy, not a bit poetic or beautiful. These feelings are what the struggles of loss, parenting, work, and marriage push against. It’s finding yourself over and over again and trying to make sense of the senseless. It leaves you questioning most things and leaves you feeling broken with no idea how to put yourself or others back together. I hope you never know. I hope you never know what it’s...

Keep Reading

I Don’t Know How to Live Without My Sister, But I Must

In: Grief
Sisters smiling in posed color photo

I’ve spent a year of my life living in a haze. Holding my breath, afraid to exhale. Focusing on staying in this frozen moment where there is no reality. I pressed the pause button. Pumped the brakes. I’ll stay right here and wait for my life, life as I knew it, life as I loved it, to come back around. Where there is no future to mourn, thinking about the way it should have been and no torturous past to remember, recalling the horror of that day. The special occasions that will come are now outlined in sadness. Wait, she’s...

Keep Reading

6 Ways to Be a Friend to Someone Grieving

In: Friendship, Grief, Loss
Friends hugging

Grief can truly be such a lonely experience after you lose a loved one. The loneliness isn’t necessarily because you don’t have anyone around you. It’s because only you had your relationship with the person who died, and it’s hard to find anyone to replace that. I have first-hand experience. My mom died recently and unexpectedly at the age of 62 and I at the age of 34, and it single-handedly has been one of the most painful experiences of my life. However, having support from family and friends will help you navigate this difficult time. Without it, the loneliness...

Keep Reading

These Final Gifts from My Mom Are Hard to Let Go

In: Grief, Loss
Little girls boots with worn toes, color photo

My daughter wobbled toward me in silver, square-toed go-go boots, one heel dislodged and flopping against our hallway’s faux wood floor. On her opposite foot, a striped sock peaked curiously through the growing toe hole. “Mama,” she said. Her tiny voice raised another octave, “My shoe!” I sighed, then sat on the floor. Waves of grief washed over me as I contemplated what kind of glue might capably reconstruct the shoe’s sole. Elmer’s glue? Textile glue? Maybe Krazy Glue? I knew the boots should just go into the bin. And yet, they—along with a vibrant, overbearing cat dress that would...

Keep Reading

A Daughter Is Never Ready To Let Her Dad Go

In: Grief, Loss
Grown daughter hugging older man

I wasn’t ready to let you go. When I was a little girl, one of my greatest fears was that something would happen to my parents. If they had to go somewhere, I would nervously follow their route in my mind, mentally noting where they probably were and when they should be back home. If they hadn’t returned by the time I thought they should, my imagination would get the best of me as I pictured a thousand things that could have happened. But the day I sat having a late breakfast at my kitchen table and saw an ambulance...

Keep Reading