When your child's friend dies by suicide

First deal with your own feelings

When your child’s life is touched by the suicide of a peer or a friend, you may find yourself experiencing a lot of different things about the same time.  Initially, you will most likely be stunned by the death.  Suicide is, in fact, a rare occurrence that is difficult for most of us to understand.  When a young person makes the devastating choice, our personal sense of shock and confusion can be overwhelming.  The questions of how and why did this happen are often fodder for neighborhood gossip and speculation.  This is when it’s so important to remember that suicide is a complex act that is always related to a variety of causes.

We may never know all the reasons for any suicide, and within this vacuum of complete and accurate information we are often presented with half-facts and speculation.  Especially after the suicide of a young person, we want to ferret out the causes so we can protect ourselves, and our children, from a similar fate.  And while it’s true that understanding the risk factors and warning signs of suicide can be very helpful, we don’t want to make judgments or assumptions about this particular death.  So don’t give in to random conversations about the reasons for death.  The most important thing any of us can say is that this young person was not thinking clearly and made a terrible choice, and the cost was his or her life.

If you knew the deceased personally, you may feel a jumble of emotions yourself.  Give yourself some time to let the news settle.  Expect shock to mix with sadness and helplessness.  Ultimately, the fact that this youngster died by suicide will be less central to your emotions than the fact that he or she is dead and will be missed by you.

It is critical for you to take time to deal with your own feelings before you approach your child.  Remember the directives from air travel about the use of oxygen masks – you must put on your own mask before you can help anyone else with theirs!

NEXT help your child

This initial response of shock may be followed quickly by concern for your own children.  If your child had a personal relationship with the deceased, your child’s grief should be your first priority.  Grief in childhood looks differently than it does in those that accompany a significant loss, in short bursts.  Such feelings normally pass quickly, which is why it’s important to seize those “teachable moments” when the door to conversation about the death may be open.

Start by expressing your own sadness and confusion about the death, and then ask your child to share his or her reactions.  Validate whatever you hear.  I can appreciate your sadness, confusion, anger, lack of understanding.  Be prepared for the classic response of “I don’t know” and validate that too!  I understand when something like this happens, it can be hard to know how you feel.

If you’ve been hearing rumors about the death, chances are your child has heard them also.  Address the rumors with your child.  There are a lot of rumors floating around about what happened.  Have you heard anything?  Explain that although some of the rumors may be true, they are only part of the story and we have to be careful not to make judgments based on limited information.  Emphasize that the most important piece of the story is the fact that the deceased felt so terrible or was thinking so unclearly that he or she did not realize in the consequences of what he or she was doing.  This is especially important to discuss if drugs or alcohol are implicated in the death.  Remind your child, without preaching or lecturing, about the effects of drugs on impulse control and judgment.

Because children normally imitate or copy the behavior of peers, you may want to underscore the dangerous consequences of the deceased’s behavior.  Sometimes children are intrigued by the circumstances of a suicide death or attempt, so it’s essential to state emphatically that there can be a fine line between dangerous and deadly behavior – and their friend’s death is a reflection of this.  If they hear any of their friends talking about copying the behavior of the deceased, they need to tell an adult immediately!

This leads into the final part of the conversation: a discussion about help-seeking.  Emphasize that nothing in life is ever so terrible or devastating that suicide is the way to handle it.  Ask your child to whom she or he would turn to for help with a serious problem.

Hopefully, your name will be on the top of the list, but don’t be upset if it isn’t.  Depending on your child’s age, his or her allegiance may have shifted to peers.  Agree that friends are a great resource but that when a problem is so big that suicide is being considered as its solution, it’s essential to get help from an adult too.

Ask which adults your child views as helpful, especially with difficult problems.  If the list is short or nonexistent, make some suggestions.  Good choices can include other adult family members, school staff such as teachers, counselors, coaches or the school nurse, clergy or youth ministers, a friend’s parent and older siblings or even neighbors.  The identity of the person is less important than the fact that your child recognizes the importance of sharing problems with a trusted adult.

A time may come when your child is concerned about the well-being of a friend or classmate. You may want to help them recognize that these same adults are a great resource in those situations too.  It’s never good to keep worries about a friend to one’s self, especially if the worries are about something as serious as suicide.

Revisit these messages about finding adult helpers in other conversations.  Unanswered questions and complicated feelings about a suicide linger, even if they are unspoken, and ignoring them does not make them go away.  Talking about suicide can’t plant the idea in your child’s head.  On the contrary, creating an open forum for discussion of difficult subjects like suicide can give your child the opportunity to recognize you as one of his trusted adults and will offer the chance to practice help seeking skills.


  • Deal with your own reactions
  • Avoid gossip about the causes
  • Remain nonjudgmental about the deceased
  • Share your reactions with your child
  • Ask for his/her response and validate it
  • Acknowledge rumors and put into context
  • Underscore the dangerous behavior of the deceased
  • Introduce topic of help seeking
  • Keep channels of communication open!


Information taken from http://www.sptsusa.org/parents/when-a-childs-friend-dies-by-suicide/.

Depression in men and women

Although it is a commonly held belief that women are more likely to experience depression than men, a recent study has found that depression rates for both genders may be closer than we think. When researchers started looking at depression symptoms more commonly exhibited by men such as substance abuse, anger and risk-taking, they found that rates of depression were similar between the genders (30% of men and 33% of women).

Because many people think of depression as primarily an issue among women, men can be resistant to come forward. However, about 6 million men experience depression in any year. Depression is a highly treatable condition. Aliive-Roberts County offers free and anonymous mental health self-assessments at http://screening.mentalhealthscreening.org/aliive-roberts-county.

A Dose of Prevention: Protecting Our Children from Medicine Abuse

October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month. National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month promotes the message that over-the-counter and prescription medicines are to be taken only as labeled or prescribed, and that using such medicines to get high or in large doses can cause serious or life-threatening consequences. The access teenagers often have to prescription medicines in home medicine cabinets and the lack of understanding by teenagers of the potential harms of these powerful medicines make it more critical than ever to raise public awareness about the dangers of medicine abuse.


As parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, and other concerned adults, we spend a lot of time helping teens circumvent the challenges that could ground them for life. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges teens face is substance abuse. While we may talk to them about the hazards of alcohol use, drunk driving, and of abusing illegal drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine, we often forget about those drugs that are found right in our own medicine cabinets – prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines.

 Today, prescription (Rx) drugs are the second most abused category of drugs after marijuana, with one in five young adults reporting that they have abused a prescription drug. In addition, according to the 2014 Monitoring the Future Survey, 3.2 percent of teens have abused over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines containing the active ingredient dextromethorphan (DXM) to get high over the past year. When abused in extreme excess—sometimes as much as 25 to 50 times the recommended dose—DXM can produce dangerous side effects, especially when combined with alcohol, illicit drugs, or certain prescription drugs.

 So why is OTC and Rx drug abuse happening? Surveys show that today’s teens mistakenly believe medication abuse is an acceptable and safer alternative to illicit drug use. The flawed thinking goes, “these drugs are prescribed by doctors and available at local drug stores so how bad can they be?” Easy access also plays a role. After all, Rx and OTC medicines are found right in our own medicine cabinets, at a friend or family member’s home, or at local drug stores.

That’s why it’s vital that caregivers be vigilant of the possible signs of abuse. If you see your child making frequent purchases of OTC cough medicines from the same or different stores, or from the Internet (for example, note the arrival of unexpected packages); or if you find empty bottles or packages of cough medicine in his/her bedroom, red flags should fly. And if you notice that he/she is exhibiting odd behavior, excessive mood swings, has an increase or decrease in sleep, declining grades or a loss of interest in friends and activities, then chances are something is wrong and you should have a parent/child talk.

So while we cannot protect children from everything that can hurt them, we can make a difference when it comes to prescription and over-the-counter medicine. Talk to them about the dangers of medicine abuse; safeguard your medicines; keep track of the medicines in your home and learn how to properly dispose of medications when they are no longer needed. And remember to model good behavior by not sharing your medications and only taking them according to your doctor’s orders or by following the instructions on the label.

For more information about prescription drug abuse, visit our website at www.aliive.org.


Did you know that the more often children and teens eat dinner with their families, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs? That is why Family Day - A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children TM  was launched in 2001 by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

Family Day is a national movement to encourage parents to frequently eat dinner with their kids and be involved in their children’s lives. Family Day will be celebrated nationwide this year on Monday, September 28th. 

According to CASA, Columbia University’s report The Importance of Family Dinners VIII, those who have infrequent family dinners (fewer than 3 per week) are more than twice as likely to try drugs – including alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription.

The report also found that teens who have frequent family dinners (5-7 per week) are more likely to get better grades in school and to say they have an excellent relationship with their parents.

Family Day began as a grassroots initiative and has grown to become a nationwide celebration. “America’s drug problem is not going to be solved in courtrooms or legislative hearing rooms by judges and politicians. It will be solved in living rooms and dining rooms and across kitchen tables – by parents and families,” stated Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA Founder.

Family Day promotes regular family activities to encourage parent-child communication. It reminds us of the value of parental engagement, and encourages parents to make family dinners a regular priority in their busy lives.

How can YOU join the fun?

Take the Family Day Pledge, promising to have dinner with your family on September 28, 2015 and more frequently throughout the year. The reality is substance abuse can strike any family regardless of ethnicity, affluence, age or gender—you’ve heard it before—our best defense is a strong offense.  While there is no silver bullet, the relationships led by parental engagement fostered at the dinner table can be a simple, effective tool to help prevent substance abuse in our children and youth. Imagine, something so natural being so effective: parent involvement is the most potent weapon in preventing substance abuse among youth!

For more information about how to talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol prevention, visit our website at www.aliive.org.


Study Finds 1 in 5 Teens Have Driven Under the Influence of Marijuana

A study conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) says that one in five teen drivers report they have driven under the influence of marijuana. The national study of nearly 2,300 11th and 12th graders, also found that 30 percent of the teens surveyed don’t consider marijuana use as a driving distraction.

Being under the influence of marijuana is more prevalent among teen drivers than alcohol, as compared to the 13 percent of teens surveyed who report they have driven after drinking. “Marijuana affects memory, judgment, and perception and can lead to poor decisions when a teen under the influence of this or other drugs gets behind the wheel of a car,” said Stephen Wallace, Senior Advisor for Policy, Research, and Education at SADD, in a news release. “What keeps me up at night is this data reflects a dangerous trend toward the acceptance of marijuana and other substances compared to our study of teens conducted just two years ago.” In that study, Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD found that 78 percent of teens were at the other end of the spectrum, characterizing marijuana use as “very” or “extremely” distracting to their driving.

Friends do play a significant role, as most teen drivers say they would stop driving under the influence of marijuana (90 percent) or alcohol (94 percent) if asked by their passengers. Yet even teen passengers are seemingly less concerned about riding in a car with a driver who has used marijuana than with one who has used alcohol. While a significant majority (87 percent) of teen passengers would speak up and ask the driver to refrain from getting behind the wheel after drinking, only 72 percent of teen passengers would do the same for a driver who has used marijuana. And the study found that girls are far more likely to speak to the driver than boys in either circumstance.

It takes only one car crash to change lives forever—far too many young people still die in alcohol and drug-related traffic deaths. Drug abuse is always unhealthy, unsafe, and unacceptable—and the problem becomes a public safety issue when drugged driving occurs.   Parents—start talking before a problem happens—driving or riding with an impaired driver is a high-risk decision.   Talk to your teens and tell them to SPEAK UP.  It is important that our kids know it is unsafe to ride with someone who is under the influence of any drug—including marijuana, prescription drugs not prescribed to them, or alcohol.

We need to keep reminding ourselves that we can make a difference.  We must raise consciousness around the risks of driving or riding with an “impaired” driver—remember “Friends don’t let Friends Drive Drunk OR Drugged.” 

Alcohol, Media and Kids

Pavlov was a Russian scientist that trained his dog to salivate at the sound of a bell. He observed that when he fed his dog it started to drool. Then he rang a bell. So he did it again. He fed his dog. The dog started to drool. Then he rang a bell. He kept doing this. After a while, he didn’t feed the dog. He just rang a bell. What did the dog do? It drooled.

How many times did he have to feed the dog and ring the bell before he didn’t need the food anymore to get the dog to drool? Twenty-three times. Most American teens see hundreds of thousands of ads for the most popular soft drinks by the time they turn 18.  A kid will be exposed to 100,000 ads for alcohol on TV and radio; in magazines and newspapers by the time he or she turns 19.

There are also the myths the alcohol industry wants us to believe. These messages work to convince people that alcohol is magic. These ads tell us alcohol can make us successful, sophisticated and even sexy. Without it, life is dull, ordinary and boring.

Everyone wants to believe in happy endings. But as most of us know, for many people alcohol is more like a horror story than a fairy tale. We are surrounded by messages that drinking is fun, sexy, desirable and harmless. It's easy to identify these messages when they appear in advertisements and commercials, but we also get less obvious messages from other media – in films, music videos, television shows, sporting events and even songs. This is because many media companies depend on alcohol advertising for a large share of their profits. As a result, alcohol use is often glorified in the media, and alcohol problems are seldom seen.

The primary purpose of the mass media is to deliver audiences to advertisers. In fact, magazines, radio stations and TV stations work hard to attract advertising dollars from all kinds of companies, including those that sell alcoholic beverages.

Most people know alcohol can cause problems. But did you know that 10% of all deaths in the United States - including half of all murders and at least one quarter of all suicides - are related to alcohol? It costs more than $100 billion each year to deal with the negative consequences of drinking.

According to the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE), underage drinking cost the state of South Dakota $234.4 million in 2013. Not all problem drinkers are alcoholics, and not all teenagers drink. But teens that do drink are more likely than adults to binge drink, making young people a lucrative market for alcohol producers. The annual sales of alcohol consumed by youth in South Dakota averages $1,244 per underage customer.

It is important to talk to your children, not only about the dangers of alcohol and drugs, but also about resisting the “myths” that advertisers work so hard to tell.

Information for this article was found at www.media-awareness.com and www.udetc.org.

Aliive Youth Invited to the Historic White House Tribal Youth Gathering!!

Three Youth Council Members, Troy Pretends Eagle, Moriah Torres, and Micah Gill received an invitation from the The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement to attend the upcoming Historic Tribal Youth Gathering. One of the requirements of being eligible for consideration was accepting the Generation Indigenous Challenge. Aliive had created the Youth Business Leaders Council to help educate Financial Literacy for youth. They currently run the Second Chance Thrift Store and the Rent a Kid Operations. The Gen I Challenge video that was submitted can be seen on the Aliive Facebook page (www.facebook.com/AliiveRC).

Such opportunities also bring the responsibilities to fundraise enough money to cover their travel expenses. So watch for future fundraising efforts and please support them!!


Aliive-Roberts County is pleased to announce an exciting new strategy that we will be engaging in with our youth!

The Empower Project will provide youth the opportunity to gain valuable job skills and real earnings to help them pursue positive life choices. The goal of the initiative is to provide participants with healthy life skills, job readiness (soft) skills, industry specific (hard) skills and financial literacy skills that prepare them for professional and personal pursuits beyond high school. 

 Through the management of a small business, we aim to be able to reduce the cost of our programming while simultaneously providing invaluable on-the-job training to our teens. Additionally, youth leaders are engaged in the building and management of our businesses, further igniting their entrepreneurial spirit. The first business that the program will work with is the Aliive Again Second Chance Store.

 Aliive Again is a thrift store located at 419 Veterans Ave in Sisseton, SD. The hours of the store are 10 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday and 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday. The store has been open since August 2014 and will now fall under the management of local teenagers. The youth involved in the program will meet weekly to manage the business; making decisions related to hiring practices, employee performance, marketing strategies, expense management and other business oversight duties. Each youth involved in the program will work a prescribed number of hours at the businesses in order to earn a paycheck.

Aliive-Roberts County also engages additional participants through the Youth Council, learning the skills that will allow them to address the problems and inequities that affect youth in our communities. Locally, the heart of our work focuses on this coalition of youth who are focused on local policymaking and strategies related to reducing the issues that affect the youth and families of Roberts County and the Lake Traverse Reservation.

Through these enterprises, we emphasize a triple bottom line:

1.    We provide working wages for our youth.

2.    We produce self- generating revenue to support our initiatives.

3.    We support community impact on sustainability by focusing on serving the local community.

We ask for community support and patience as these local leaders move into the management role. Donations at the store are accepted the first week of the month only due to storage limitations. Shoppers are welcome and appreciated ALL the time!