My Child Has Expressed Suicidal Thoughts: What Do 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 the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
WARNING: this post contains in-depth language and information about suicide and self harm. If you are in acute crisis looking for help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or dial 911.
Suicidal ideation is defined as someone having thoughts of ending their life. Not all individuals who experience suicidal ideation will attempt suicide. 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 suicide and suicidal thoughts 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.
Some examples include:
- 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 never 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, do you have a plan? Can you tell me about it?
Be an active listener
- Arrange for a private, one-on-one space for the conversation to take place
- Schedule plenty of time for the conversation so the person doesn't feel rushed
- 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 judgment 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 to not 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, including sharp objects and firearms
- 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
- If you are concerned for your loved one’s safety, seek help
- Reaching out for support is a sign of strength, not weakness
At Charlie Health, our team of expert clinicians are here to support you and your loved ones. Charlie Health provides virtual-first intensive outpatient treatments, consisting of supported groups, individual therapy, and family therapy multiple times 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, fill out our quick get-started form today.
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