Psychiatrist offers advice on suicide conversations with teens

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) -- In 2018 Wyoming’s teen suicide rate was more than three times higher than the national average. In Wyoming, 28.9 teens died by suicide compared to 8.9 nationally. This is according to data provided by Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. When it comes to talking to teens about suicide, depression and mental health, Brian LeDuc, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Cheyenne Regional Medical Center offered his thoughts.

LeDuc said, "I think the key to good parenting is being aware of what's going on in your child's lives." He said that asking kids how their relationships are going and if they’re being bullied can be some questions to start with. He also said to be on the lookout for changes in behavior. Is a child less talkative than they were before or are grades at school changing? LeDuc said, "If all of a sudden their grades are going down significantly, that's a sign that something's going on."

LeDuc said if you hear a child report thought of not wanting to be alive or make suicidal statements it’s important that they get evaluated. He said, "I think the biggest issue is stigma with mental health. Everyone has the beliefs of, oh there's something wrong with you if you have a mental health issue. The reality is it's biological and there's not a lot that you can do about that kind of thing." LeDuc said there isn’t anything wrong with having thoughts or feelings one way or another, but seeking help for a child is important. He said, “It’s not a weakness. It’s not a sign that they’re a bad parent.”

He said if you have a concerns as a parent, family doctors and pediatricians often offer screening to help figure out what might be going on. LeDuc also said monitoring internet usage is important and recommends parents have access to what kids are posting and receiving online.