What Can Parents Do?
Try to keep the lines of communication open and express your concern, support, and love. If your child confides in you, show that you take those concerns seriously. It is important not to minimize or discount what your child is going through, as this can increase his or her sense of hopelessness.
- Talk to your children and try to understand their feelings.
- Listen when children want to talk, and take them seriously.
- Trust your instincts. If you sense something is wrong, ask your child directly about your suspicion.
- Do not dismiss disruptive behavior as attention-seeking. Wonder with your child about what might be behind it.
- Do not discount your child's negative feelings. Saying "You shouldn't feel that way" or “Don’t say such a thing” may cause your child to shut down and not come to you for help.
- Do not let fear make you silent. Talk to your child.
- Ask questions. Some people fear that asking about suicide will plant the idea of suicide into a child’s mind. This is not true.
- Sometimes children or adolescents who are thinking about suicide won’t tell you because they are worried how you will react. Your calm, non-judgmental questions can encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings with you.
If your child doesn't feel comfortable talking with you, suggest a more neutral person, such as a relative, a clergy member, a coach, a school counselor, or your child's doctor.
If you learn that your child is thinking about suicide, get help immediately. Your doctor can refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist, or your local hospital's department of psychiatry can provide a list of doctors in your area. In an emergency, you can call 1.800.273.TALK (1.800.273.8255).
If your child is in a crisis situation, your local emergency room can conduct a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation and refer you to the appropriate resources. If you are unsure about whether you should bring your child to the emergency room, contact your doctor or call 1.800.273.TALK (1.800.273.8255) for help.
If you have scheduled an appointment with a mental health professional, keep the appointment, even if your teen says he or she is feeling better or doesn't want to go. Suicidal thoughts tend to come and go; however, it is important that your teen get help developing the skills needed to decrease the likelihood that suicidal thoughts and behaviors will emerge again if a crisis arises.
Ongoing conflicts between a parent and child can worsen things for a teen who is feeling isolated, misunderstood, or suicidal. Get help to discuss family problems and resolve them in a constructive way.