Why did my friend
try to kill herself?

by Holly Jo Meyers

Recently, I was speaking with a friend at work. He told me about his daughter having a bad time the night before when she found out that her 14-year-old friend attempted suicide. He couldn’t remember the girl’s name, but after a few more minutes, I connected the facts and figured out that the girl was someone my daughter Meghan and I had known well.

My first thoughts were of the beautiful child with the big brown eyes and sweet smile that I had driven to dance class every Wednesday for two years. My next thought was, “How do I tell my daughter? How do I explain this to her?”

That evening, I sat down with Meghan and we talked about what happened. I let her talk about her feelings and fears about what her friend had done. Her recurring statement was “I can’t believe SHE would do that. Why did she do it? She was so happy last time I saw her.”

I had no answers for Meghan and I told her so. Perhaps no one but her friend would ever fully understand why she tried suicide. The one thing I stressed at the end of our conversation was that, no matter what, she could always come to me and talk about anything. I would always listen to her and no situation, feeling or fear was off limits.
Since then, I have wondered if I gave her good answers, if I handled the situation in a healthy and safe manner. So a trip to the computer was made. My research has uncovered many helpful ideas on how to discuss a friend’s suicide or attempted suicide with your child. The overall message is the same from source to source.

  • Talk openly and honestly with your child. Tell her what happened clearly and concisely, but not in great detail.
  • Listen to your child’s feelings and fears. No feeling is unimportant or unfounded to your child. It’s alright to be upset or sad. That’s natural.
  • Discuss how to deal with problems in a positive way. Your child should know that suicide is not a way to solve problems.
  • Encourage your child to talk about her friend with close friends and family about what happened. It helps to deal with her feelings. But don’t let it turn to gossip about the incident.
  • Physically be close to your child while you talk about this, ie, hold her hand, hug her, sit next to her. This allows your child to feel safe with her feelings and that you really are listening.
  • Show your child your feelings. If your child sees you shed tears, they are more apt to understand that their feelings are okay.
  • Your child may feel guilt for not seeing what was about to happen. Let your child know that this was not her fault.

These suggestions will help you when dealing with such a scary subject. Your child is confused and frightened to be faced with a friend’s loss. Most children haven’t had to deal with death and they don’t know how to express their fears. Showing your child that you are there to help her is the best tool you can give her to heal and move on with day-to-day life.

I’m happy to report that our friend is recovering and currently seeing a counsellor. Our story has turned out happy. Not all do. And with the suicide rate rising for teens in many places in the western world, it may not be too far fetched to find that your child knows someone who has seriously considered suicide or may attempt it.


© Holly Jo Meyers

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Surviving Suicide
American Association of Suicidology
Suicide Prevention Australia

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*

I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.

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* Gloria Steinem