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 new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

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 

Grief is a Wild Horse

In: Grief
Woman in water at sunset

I burst into tears the other day at the nail salon. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” came on over the speakers, and though it was muffled by people’s chatter, the line, “Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow,” cut through the scars of my heart like a hot knife. Tears poured out of me and into the pedicure basin. I don’t apologize anymore, though. It used to scare me that grief was non-linear. That it can creep up without warning and strike. I would rush to hide and chide myself to pull it together....

Keep Reading

Please Don’t Let My Baby Die

In: Cancer, Motherhood
Toddler boy lying in hospital bed, color photo

I wasn’t made for this.  I am not strong enough. Lord, where are you taking me? Why does this joyful time, filled with our last baby’s firsts, have to be this way? Why did the doctors look at me that way? They know what’s coming, and deep down inside, so do I. The inevitable word that is about to come out of their mouths.  The C-word.  Cancer. It’s life-changing.  Almost as if it were a car accident. Believe me, I know about that. To be the reason behind a grown man hanging onto a thread. Completely unintentional. I just needed...

Keep Reading

Hug My Babies In Heaven For Me, God

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Woman looking up at sunset sky

To my babies in Heaven,  I still miss you.  Sometimes I wonder if you can see us from Heaven. Do you get to watch us raise your siblings? Do you know us, like we long to know you? Are you proud to be our child? Does God ever pass on the messages I give to you in my prayers?  I hope so. I miss you. I miss you in the car rides when I look back and see two car seats where there should be more. I miss you when your siblings are laughing together, and I wish you were...

Keep Reading

I Should Have Taken More Photos of My Mom

In: Grief, Loss
Grandmother holding newborn, color photo

What’s the one thing I wish I did before my mom died? Take more photos. But no, I assumed I’d have more time. We always have more time, right? Until we don’t. My baby was born, and I was frazzled. Lost in a sea of having a third child and postpartum anxiety. My mom asked for photos. I was nursing, I hadn’t showered. I felt gross. I didn’t want to let my last baby go from my arms. I had time, right? Until you don’t. She asked for photos. And now. We only have one. We only have one.  I...

Keep Reading

I Carry the Baby I Lost In My Heart

In: Baby, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Early sonogram image of baby

I ignored it at first, the pink on the tissue. It wasn’t anything to worry about. I’d known for three weeks at this point that I was expecting baby number three, and I was still giddy about it. In fact, I had just shared my news with people at work and told them when I was due.  I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.  So, when I visited the bathroom, I ignored it.  Two healthy textbook pregnancies and births, why would this be any different?  But, looking back, there was a little nagging voice at the back of my...

Keep Reading

The First Christmas Without My Parents Cuts Deep

In: Faith, Grief, Loss
Sad woman with Christmas tree lit up in background

“This is going to be the first time we go through the holidays without mom.” How many times have I heard these words spoken by others? How am I just now understanding how full of meaning this statement really is? Nearly 60 years old, this will be my first Christmas as an orphan. My sister and I lost my father over 10 years ago, my mother just last summer. It will be up to us to create memories for the younger generation, and I have faith that we are up to the task.  It isn’t that my parents made a...

Keep Reading

Dear Grieving Heart, Be Still and Know

In: Faith, Grief, Loss
Little girl with flowers standing next to casket, color photo

It is said that grief has stages. Five to be exact. Not sure where I am on that scale, but I can tell you I have reached acceptance and then floated right back down to denial, all in a matter of days. What I am beginning to realize is that grief isn’t linear. It goes through waves and has a rhythm all of its own. Anger and acceptance can (and do) co-exist. You can be happy and sad at the same moment. You can feel lost and confused, yet know exactly where you are or feel completely alone in a...

Keep Reading

Your Love Is Passed On

In: Grief, Loss
Woman smiling, black and white photo

For so much of my life, I never understood why people used the phrase “passed on” when someone died. I thought it was an oblique turn of phrase. A weak way to express the truth of the matter. The person died. No reason to soften the truth, no need to cushion the blow. It wasn’t until my mother left this earthly plane a year ago that I started to understand the difference between the words “died” and “passed on.” I haven’t measured the time that my mom has been gone in days or months, but rather I have marked her...

Keep Reading

I’ll Miss Your Holiday Spirit the Most

In: Grief
Little girls in Christmas dresses sitting in white chair

Being in a stepfamily means a lot of Christmases, we had one for each household plus each side of the family: Mom’s, Dad’s, Stepmom’s, and Stepdad’s. That was a lot of “Christmas mornings” growing up, and every single one of them was with you, my sister. It gave us a ton of opportunities to share in the gift-giving process too, with each package labeled From C&C.  When I got married, I vividly recall the eye roll and dramatic “ugh” when you came to realize I would now be gift-giving with my spouse, not you. Believe me, it was strange. I’m...

Keep Reading

When It Just Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas, Look for the Baby In the Manger

In: Faith, Grief
Nativity scene lit up

I don’t know about you, but each Christmas season I find myself trying to catch the “feeling.”  It seems like every year I hear myself say as December 25th looms around the corner, “It just doesn’t FEEL like Christmas.”  Part of that is living in Florida. I have never felt like I belonged here. I’ve always longed for cooler weather and the changing of seasons. Oh how my heart aches for a “white Christmas” that I fear I’ll never get.  I’ve heard others echo something similar. But it seems like we’ve become obsessed with chasing this evasive feeling that is...

Keep Reading