Over the years, Red Table Talk has given us a wealth of powerful conversations and they are seldom afraid to get up and close with heavier topics. Keeping up with that unflinching and unapologetically real tradition, Willow Smith and her longtime friend Paris Jackson sat down for an intimate conversation in the latest episode — touching on pandemic anxieties, growing up with famous parents and their experiences navigating difficult mental health situations.
For Jackson and Smith, they were able to tap into their longtime friendship to talk about their own experiences with depression and, at different points, wrestling with suicidal ideation (“I know that we both have been there,” Willow said about these experiences). Touching on how Jackson was admitted into the hospital for attempting suicide in 2019, the singer shared how now, years out from that incredibly dark experience, she is “grateful” to be alive.
“I was talking to my friend about this the other night,” Jackson said. “A lot of people do feel regret when they try and attempt suicide. Like, a last-minute regret. There have been times where I did and times when I didn’t, where I was upset that it didn’t work. But I can say, like, several years later, that, like, I’m really grateful that it didn’t. Things have gotten better.”
As SheKnows has previously reported, “those at risk for suicide do not necessarily want to die… [they just] want help in reducing the pain they are experiencing,” according to Crisis Centre in British Columbia — and access to help and a support system that encourages hope for things to improve can greatly benefit survivors of suicide attempts (which is why 60 to 70 percent of these survivors never make a second attempt, according to Mental Health America).
However, as Willow notes early on in the episode, the rate of suicidal ideation in young people is on the rise (it is the second leading cause of death for adolescents) — particularly for young adults (age 18-25) and for biracial folks, per the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH). It helps to have a clearer understanding of how a young person begins to experience these thoughts and feelings.
Smith asked about what parts of Jackson’s experience led to her getting to that low point and she said there were a lot of factors: “I think it was everything, man,” Jackson said. “I think a lot of it was just not knowing who I was, being a young girl and going through puberty, and probably a lot of just my situation and a lot of pressure. It was really hard, and people would tell me to kill myself every day, and I was depressed.”
“When children hit puberty, there are changes in their body and brain that can and do lead to behavioral changes. But there is a normal range which can manifest as moodiness, irritability, and pushing you away,” per the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). “This is a natural part of adolescent development. What should be concerning is if you notice indications of hopelessness or worthlessness, a withdrawal from friends and activities, or suicidal thinking or behavior. These are not typical manifestations for teenage angst.”
If you’re looking for resources for helping a friend or loved one or trying to get information about treatment for yourself, you can turn to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling them at 1-800-273-8255.
Before you go, check out our favorite affordable mental health apps: