32ND ANNUAL CRIME PREVENTION GUIDE 46 Talking to Children About a Suicide Mental Health Commission of Canada releases a new resource for parents and caregivers It’s human nature to skirt difficult conversations, especially when they involve uncomfortable circumstances and topics. But sometimes we need to face these challenges head on. That’s certainly true for several of the communities participating in the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s (MHCC’s) Roots of Hope suicide prevention initiative. In one of these northern communities, “there was a tragic cluster of suicides,” said Nitika Rewari, the MHCC’s acting director of Prevention and Promotion initiatives. “For parents, grandparents, and caregivers, addressing something so painful can be paralyzing. So it wasn’t surprising when people started asking us to create a resource for such situations, one that could really speak to the need to support children in a caring, safe, age-appropriate way.” That said, she added, it’s natural for any caregiver of a child affected by suicide to feel overwhelmed and unsure about what to do. Where to begin “So we developed Talking to Children About a Suicide, a resource designed to walk parents, teachers, and others through these discussions, step by step. Since it’s not an easy path, we wanted to let caregivers know how to mentally prepare, what to expect (or not expect), and how to respond with language that is helpful, not harmful,” Rewari explained. For Michel Rodrigue, the MHCC’s new president and CEO, the new resource strikes a deeply personal chord. “I lost a dear family friend to suicide, and this tragic loss occurred when his children were very young. Back then, we simply didn’t have guidance on the importance of talking openly. I can see now that the best path to healing is creating the space for grief, acknowledging those feelings, and giving children permission to ask difficult questions,” he said. Program manager Julie McKercher, who has worked extensively in community-based crisis intervention, created the resource and had eight experts review and validate its approaches.As she points out, having accurate information is a key part of the process.“We aren’t born knowing how to support a child in grief, and we may be afraid that talking about suicide could plant ideas in a child’s head or create even more angst. Yet those are misnomers - they simply aren’t true.” (continued) photo created by zinkevych