81 Kids and the Law • Prior attempts. People who commit suicide have usually made a previous attempt. They also may be influenced by the suicide or attempt of a family member, a peer, or a hero, such as a sports star or musician. • Frequently talking, writing or reading about death and dying. This may show up in the child’s art work, music, and writing, such as journal, poetry, or stories. • Depression and behavior changes. Sleeplessness, increasingly withdrawn behavior, neglect of personal appearance or increased aggressiveness may be warning signs of suicidal thinking. • Increased risk-taking such as fast driving or drug use that places the child’s life at risk. • A personality change such as from upbeat to quiet. • Parting with prized possessions. People thinking about suicide often write about their thoughts and make plans to give away special possessions. How should a person respond? Many young people will show one or more of these danger signs at some time. This makes it hard to know how and when to respond. The danger signs may be a part of a difficult time or stage the child is going through or a short-term response to a negative event. If several danger signs are shown at the same time or if they go on for a period of several weeks, it is important to respond. For example, • Talk to the child. Don’t wait. Listen to him or her without judging. • Take seriously the thoughts and feelings the child expresses. • Don’t leave the child alone. • Make sure there are no weapons or pills around the home. Get rid of possi- ble weapons or pills; don’t just hide them. • Get professional help for the child. Both counseling and emergency mental health services are widely available in every community. (See the Resourc- es section at the back of this book for listings.) Mental Health and Substance Use Issues 8