Talking to Kids About Suicide, Homicide, and Overdose

We know it’s hard to feel like there is any good news to share in the world today. It’s challenging talking to kids even when the news is good! Navigating conversations about death, especially when the death is by suicide, homicide, or overdose may seem overwhelming. You may not know where to begin, but here are some starting points to consider.

Table of how to talk to your kids

Explaining suicide: “People can get sick in their brain the same way they can get sick in other parts of their body. When their brain is sick sometimes they feel sad and hopeless and don’t want to be around the people they love. They might even hurt people they love because their brain is sick. They may have trouble making decisions or asking for help. When they are sad they might think about hurting themselves or ending their own life. This is called suicide. Do you have any questions?”

Explaining homicide: “We don’t always know why, but sometimes a person wants to hurt another person on purpose so badly that they die. This is called murder (homicide?). Do you have any questions?”

Explaining addiction/overdose: “People can have a disease called addiction. They struggle with drugs or drinking too much alcohol. When people have addictions it’s hard for them to think about anything else. They might hurt people they love because they can’t think about anything else. Sometimes they take so many drugs or drink so much alcohol that their bodies stop working. This is called an overdose. Do you have any questions?”

Gayle Brumley is an MSW, and the Camp Manager at Experience Camps. She is a Certified Child Life Specialist and holds a Certificate of Thanatology from the Association for Death Education and Counseling. She has over 10 years of professional experience in the non-profit camp sector with children and young adults with developmental disabilities and serious illnesses.