What to Do if Your Child Talks About Suicide or Wanting to End Their Life?

As a parent it’s hard to imagine a child getting to this point. As adults we may downplay or dismiss what we see and hear; we may worry that our child is just trying to get attention. Remember that most of the time suicide is not about wanting to die – it is about stopping the pain of living.
First, look for these warning signs:

♦ Current talk about suicide, or making a suicide plan
♦ Signs of serious depression, moodiness, hopelessness and withdrawal
♦ Strong wish to die, preoccupation with death, giving away prized possessions
♦ Increased alcohol and /or drug use
♦ Recent suicide attempt by a friend or family member
♦ Impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks
♦ Perception that there is no one to talk to

If you are concerned, take action.

1. Show you Care
Let your child know you really care. Talk about your feelings and ask about his or hers. Listen carefully to what is being said.
Try saying: “I’m concerned about you…about how you feel.” “I care about you, and about how you’re holding up.” “I’m on your side…we’ll get through this.”

2. Ask the Question
Don’t hesitate to ask directly about suicide. Talking with your child about suicide won’t put the idea in their heads. Chances are, if you’ve observed any of the warning signs, they’re already thinking about it.
Be direct in a caring, non-confrontational way. Get the conversation started by asking:
“Are you thinking about suicide?” or
“Do you want to die or do you just want the pain to go away?”

3. Get Help
Keep moving forward, together. Call for help. Try saying:
“Together I know we can figure something out to make you feel better.”
“It’s difficult to know what to do, but I know where we can get some help.”
If your child has expressed an immediate plan, or has access to a gun or other potentially deadly means:

♦ Do not leave him or her alone
♦ Get help immediately
♦ Remove the potentially deadly means from your home, at least temporarily during this crisis.

Taken From A Parent’s Guide to Recognizing and Treating Depression in Your Child
A publication of the Youth Suicide Prevention Program