Jenni Griffin and Dr. Matt Larsen work as Idaho Falls representatives for the Suicide Prevention in Action Network of Idaho. They joined Neal Larson on KID Newsradio to discuss suicide prevention and how people can approach discussion such a sensitive topic.
Listen to the full interview below:
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Before Jenni Griffin’s son died, she didn’t know much about suicide prevention.
“I didn’t recognize the warning signs for what they were,” Jenni Griffin, Executive Director for the Suicide Prevention in Action Network in Idaho (SPAN), told KID Newsradio. “A know a lot about it now then I did 14 years ago.”
Since then both Jenni Griffin and Dr. Matt Larsen have both spent countless hours working with SPAN to bring awareness to suicide prevention.
Both Larsen and Griffin agree the topic of suicide needs to be discussed more, but navigating how talking about such a sensitive topic in appropriate ways, isn’t easy.
“We can’t hide that suicide occurs or again, mental health or depression becomes a shameful thing that no one can talk about, that makes things worse,” Dr. Matt Larsen, Co-Chair of Suicide Prevention in Action told KID Newsradio.
But, the topic is a two-sided coin, one that Larsen says is difficult to balance.
“The other side is it becomes glorified, that we honor this person, that there was nothing ever wrong, they’re perfect and beautiful in every way, because then that sends the message to those that are hurting, ‘well, if I did the same thing, I’d been seen that way or I could get more realized, I could get a painted rock at the school, I could get a memorial that everyone would see and remember me and that’s the struggle, to talk about it in a way that makes the conversation open,'” Larsen said.
Larsen recommends age appropriate discussions similar to how parents would talk about sex or any other sensitive topic.
“There’s no starting point,” Larsen said. “Unfortunately there’s kids very young who do, so I can’t say you don’t start until age 10. So, you change it age appropriate.”
Starting open conversations, not just about suicide, but about simple things like bad grades or even injecting more love into disciplinary conversations like wrecking the car, can create a bridge of support for when a child or adult struggles with temporary thoughts of suicide.
“Thoughts of suicide, they come and go, but as far as someone being at severe risk of suicide, that’s a temporary thing,” Larsen said. “They need to know coming to you is better than not coming to you.”
The struggle with suicide doesn’t just end at adolescence. Griffin said Idaho’s highest demographic for completed suicides are first males 85 years-old and older and then working age males.
Both agree there are plenty of information and resources to tackle issues like suicide, both interpersonally and independently.
“Be willing to have the conversation,” Larsen said. “I’ve see parents that are afraid of talking about it…you have to be open to having the conversation. You can’t fear the topic or they’ll never open up to you, you won’t be the support they go to.”
Anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts can call 1-800-273-TALK or text (208) 398-4357.