October 13, 2020

My Child has Expressed Suicidal Thoughts: What Should I do?

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children and young adults. Greater awareness and resources can help reduce both suicide attempts and deaths by suicide. Therefore, it’s essential to have resources that can help you navigate through these challenging circumstances. If you or a loved one is experiencing a life-threatening emergency, please call 911 or theNational Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800)-273-8255.

Suicidal ideation is defined as someone having thoughts around ending their life. Not all individuals who experience suicidal ideation will make a suicide attempt. Nonetheless, it is important to seek help if an individual is struggling with suicidal ideation, as those thoughts can quickly escalate if they are not properly addressed. Although talking about the topics of self-harm and suicide can be difficult, early intervention and direct communication is the best way to ensure the health and safety of your loved ones.

Ask questions instead of making assumptions

● Have you ever hurt yourself, or do you think about hurting yourself?

● Have you ever wished you were dead or wished you could go to sleep and not wake up?

● Have you ever thought about suicide or ending your life?

● Have you ever thought about how you would end your life? If so, tell me about your plan.

Be an active listener

● Arrange for a private, one on one space for the conversation to take place

● Provide plenty of time to engage in a safe conversation

● Ask direct questions and address the topics of self-harm and suicide directly

● Be persistent if your loved one is reluctant

● Avoid interrupting someone who is speaking about difficult subjects

● Allow your loved one to speak openly and honestly

● Engage in conversations without judgement or expectations

Be positive and compassionate

● Don’t try to enforce a diagnosis you’re not sure of—allow a clinical professional to evaluate

● Be honest about what you do and do not know—it’s okay not to have all the answers

● Stay calm and remember to react appropriately when someone is sharing

Ensure safety at home

● Remove dangerous objects from easily accessible areas

● Keep all medications in a locked or safe place

● Avoid extended periods of isolation

● Maintain frequent check-ins to ensure that harmful thoughts have not escalated or have been carried out

Seek Help

● If you are concerned for your loved one’s safety—seek help

● Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness

Contact Us

At Charlie Health, our team of expert clinicians are here to support you and your loved ones. Charlie Health provides video-based intensive outpatient treatments, consisting of nine hours of live programming per week to ensure a higher level of care for a successful recovery. To learn more about Charlie Health and find a treatment program that’s right for you, please call (406)-361-3001.


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Claire Ellison, LCSW

Laura Sebulsky, MBSR

Director of Admissions and
Clinical Outreach

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