How to Talk to a Teen Threatening Suicide
Updated: Jul 9, 2022
Hearing a teen say something like, "I should just go kill myself," can feel like a hopeless cause, especially since suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers.
As a loved one of someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts, it can be incomprehensible, isolating, hurtful and hopeless. Although in many cases, you would never see you child harming themselves, it is important to address signs of suicide right away if you see them.
If you struggle with how to address this struggle, there is hope and guidance available. You are not powerless; you can guard your teen against the possibility of suicide.
In this article, we will discuss ways in which you can communicate with your at risk child who might be struggling with suicidal thoughts.
The Truth About Teen Suicide
Here's what you need to know if your child is threatening to commit suicide:There is a part of them that doesn't really want to die...
The reality is, teens contemplating suicide likely feel hopeless, out of control and unable to cope with some of the problems that arise in their life.
The pain they are experiencing is intense and substantial, and in this moment suicide seems the only way out. Suicidal teens are looking for a way to stop their emotional pain and you can be part of the solution.
If you are struggling to find a way to talk to and find solutions, in the next section we will offer some conversational prompts in which you can start connecting with your child.
Connecting with Your Teen: What to Say
If your teen mentions wanting to die or shows some of the warning signs of suicide, encourage them to talk to you about his or her problems. To start, help the conversation by encourage them to:
Describe Their Feelings
Say something like, "I had no idea things were so bad for you, talk to me about what's going on." Ask your teen share whether a specific incident led to suicidal thoughts.
Ask Engaging Questions
Ask a question such as, "What happened? I want to know more, it might help to talk about it." If you teen decides to open up, be sure not to invalidate their feelings. Create a safe space for them to freely express themselves.
Avoid saying things that may be perceived as empty or unhelpful such as, "You should appreciate your blessings," or "You might be just going through your emotional teenage years." Those things will minimize your teen's pain.
Show Acceptance and Understanding
The best thing you can do, just listen.
Try your best to listen without judgment or disagreeing with their statements or feelings. Ask if your teen has a specific plan for suicide. If they have specifics, you are gauging the severity of their feelings and might need to implement medical professional help.
Offer Emotional Support
After gaining a better understanding, it's important to offer your teen emotional support. As every child, family and situation is different, help them understand that you understand how they are currently feeling. Show unconditional love and deep concern about their well being.
Use statements that express compassion and care like, "I do not want you to hurt yourself and I will do everything possible to keep you from committing suicide."
Gently state that suicide in not the only solutions and offer to explore other avenues together.
Provide reassurance by saying something like, "You are not alone. I am here to help you now that I understand how bad things really are for you. We can get through this together."
Focus on the Positive
Another important way to address suicidal behavior is to prioritize quality time spent together. Often, when our children do something "bad" or "concerning" we quickly turn critical but in this situation, positivity is key.
Focusing on the positive is not forcing positive thoughts but creating positive experiences. Interacting in positive ways can make a difference and they do not have to be large acts.
Do fun and simple things together, hang out, chat about non-conversational things and open their minds to the world and new experiences. By doing so, it can be greatly helpful.
Talking, Connection and Safety: The Main Focuses
A teen who is talking about suicide could be in immediate danger so take your teen's comments seriously.
Remember, you are not powerless; you can guard your teen against the possibility of suicide.
Remove all dangerous implements or substances from the immediate area. Stay with your teen and if needed get your teen immediate professional help.
By getting ongoing help for your teen, you are taking the first step. Therapy can treat and address underlying mental health issues and is crucial to alleviating your teen's distress.
If you have more questions, feel free to contact us here at One By One Behavioral health.