I hear this a lot when I first meet with parents and it makes my heart sink each time. As a parent, I am sure you have heard some bizarre things come out of your kids mouth in the middle of a meltdown. Plus, let’s face it, when your kid gets to that level of melt-downing, you are probably not functioning at your best yourself either. It’s those pesky mirror neurons that are making you escalate and blood pressure rise! However, any comment about suicide is serious and it’s important not to ignore something like this.
However, EVEN IF you don’t think you’re kid would ever attempt suicide (maybe they don’t even know what suicide is!), the fact they said they want to kill themself is a big signal to you that something is not right.
It’s always important to take an statement of suicide seriously. Typically, what I see in counseling with the kids is that they needed something that will grab someone’s attention. It’s sort of like they are waving their arms in the air saying “Someone pay attention! I need help!”
That’s okay. In counseling, we can work on ways to tell people they are hurting without making a suicide outcry.
So, here’s the plan:
- Take it seriously.It NEVER hurts to follow up on this. It’s not worth the possibility of never seeing your child again. I know this for a fact: When There’s a Will, There’s a Way.
- Go to a nearby emergency room.A hospital can evaluate your child to see if they will be able to keep themselves safe. Sometimes, a hospital is the best place for your child. The staff at the hospital are trained to assess if your child is danger to themselves or others. If they think your child needs to be admitted, GREAT! You’re in the right place. People will be able to help and your child can find some relief from the pain. If the hospital says they are safe to come home, GREAT! You can rest easy knowing that did what you needed to do and can focus on next steps.
- Find a counselor.The hospital may be able to refer someone to you. It is absolutely critical that you get your kid in counseling after they make a suicide outcry. Even if they were just having a tantrum, they still need to get into counseling. Normal tantrums do not involve suicidal statements.
- Talk to people at schoolTeachers, school counselors, principals. Was there any bullying going on that you didn’t know about? Maybe grades have been dropping slowing or there’s too much pressure happening on a certain subject. Maybe your child’s best friend just stopped being their friend? Gather info.
- Check their social media.Cyber Bullying is REAL SCARY now. Check to see if anything stands out. Snapchat seems harmless with its sweet puppy dog filters, but it’s actually one of places I see the worst bullying since content disappears immediately.
- Check in with your relationship with your kid.Have you gotten to spend time with them lately? When’s the last time that you actually had a conversation with them, outside of schedules or chores or grades? Relationships can always be improved. Even when it doesn’t seem like it, the smallest moments of attention matter. Try going for a walk or taking them to grocery store with them. One on one time is invaluable.
- Find support for yourself.It’s normal to feel hurt or guilty or lost when your child makes a suicidal outcry. You need to talk about it with friends, family or your own counselor and not with your kid. You want your kids to tell you when they are feeling so sad they want to hurt themselves. However, some kids feel pressure to keep their feelings a secret when they are worried about hurting their parents. That is not their responsibility, so don’t put that on them.
- Promote communication in your home.Talk with your kid. Know what is going on in their life. Let them know they can trust you and you can help.
Even if you feel they are just saying it for “attention”, it’s important to take it seriously. Something’s going on with your kid. Things are so bad they feel like they have to say something extreme so they will be heard. So let them be heard and find the right support.
Until next time! xoxo Kristen]