What to do if my child is suicidal: 8 tips for parents

A serious public health problem, suicide is one of the leading causes of death in children and adolescents.

And while suicide and depression are interwoven, other triggers of suicidal thoughts and actions can include a romantic relationship breakup, failing in school, being bullied, or experiencing abuse, loss or other trauma.

Here’s what parents need to know about suicide prevention:

1. Know the warning signs

  • Pay attention to children talking about wanting to die or kill themselves, feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, or being a being a burden to others.
  • Suicide notes are a very real sign of danger and should always be taken seriously. These notes may be in the form of letters, emails, social media posts or text messages.
  • If someone has attempted suicide in the past, they are more likely to try again.
  • Watch for children making final arrangements like saying goodbye to friends; giving away prized possessions; or deleting social media profiles, pictures or posts.
  • Making sudden dramatic changes can be a sign too. Watch out for teens withdrawing from friends and family; skipping school or classes; becoming less involved in activities that were once important; avoiding others; having trouble sleeping or sleeping all the time; suddenly losing or gaining weight; or showing a disinterest in appearance or hygiene.
  • A suicidal child or adolescent may show an increased interest in guns and other weapons, may seem to have increased access to guns or pills, or may talk about or hint at a suicide plan.
  • Sudden risky behaviors can indicate suicidal thoughts. Watch for increased use of alcohol or drugs, showing rage or talking about seeking revenge. Self-injury is also a warning sign for young children and teenagers.

2. If you have any suspicion, ask your child if they are thinking about killing themselves. This will not put the idea into their head or make them more likely to attempt suicide.

3. Listen to your child without judgement and let them know you care.

4. Help your child stay engaged in their usual coping activities life family activities and sports.

5. If your child is in danger, stay with them or ensure they are in a private, secure place with another caring person until you can get further help.

6. Remove any objects that could be used in a suicide attempt like medications, guns, sharp knives, ropes or cords, or cleaning products.

7. If danger of self-harm or suicide is mounting, call 911.

8. Know your resources.

  • Find a therapist by calling CalOptima Behavioral Health at 855-877-3885 or checking with your insurance provider on its website or phone number printed on the back of your card.
  • Here are other ways to get help for a child having suicidal thoughts: Call the MHSA Suicide Prevention Line at 877-727-4747 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. Text CONNECT to 741741. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.
Download the Let's Talk Guide and start a conversation about mental health

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What to do if you feel suicidal

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in children
and adolescents – but it doesn’t have to be.

If you are considering suicide or self-harm, pausing to take these 5 steps can save your life:

1. Get help!

You need to seek help immediately if you can’t see any
solution to your bad feelings besides harming or killing yourself or others. If
talking to a stranger seems easier for you, call 1-800-273-TALK or text
“CONNECT” to 741741.

2. Know that there is always another solution – even if you can’t see it right now.

Remember that these emotions will pass, no matter how awful
you feel now. Many people who have attempted suicide and survived say that they
tried it because they felt there was no other solution or way to end their
pain.

3. Remember that having thoughts of hurting yourself or others does not make you a bad person.

Depression can make you think and feel things that do not
reflect your true character. These are reflections of how much you are hurting.

4. If your feelings are overwhelming, tell yourself to wait 24 hours before taking any action.

This can give you time to really think things through and
see if those strong feelings get a tiny bit easier to handle. During this
24-hour period, talk to anyone who isn’t also feeling suicidal or depressed. Call
a hotline or talk to a friend or trusted adult. Remember there are likely
several solutions to your problem.

5. If you’re afraid you can’t stop yourself, make sure you are never alone.

Even if you can’t talk about your feelings, stay in public
places, hang out with friends or family members, or go to a movie — anything to
keep from being by yourself and in danger.

Download the Let's Talk Guide and start a conversation about mental health

Related posts:

What to do if your friend is suicidal

Suicide rarely happens without warning, and you might be in the best position to notice and assist a friend who needs help. Because suicide rarely happens without warning, you may see signs yourself, hear about them secondhand, or see something online in social media. Here are three key things you can do to help a friend who is suicidal:                

1. Do not be afraid to talk to your friend.

Listen to their feelings. Make sure they know how important
they are to you. But, don’t believe you can keep them from hurting themselves
on your own. Preventing suicide will require help from adults.

2.Don’t keep this secret.

Never keep secret a friend’s suicidal plans or thoughts. You
need to speak up to save your friend’s life, even if they ask you to promise
not to tell.

3.Tell an adult.

Don’t wait to talk to your parent, your friend’s parent, your school’s psychologist or counselor, or any other trusted adult. Don’t be afraid that grown-ups won’t believe you or take you seriously. Talk to someone even if you are unsure your friend is suicidal. This is definitely the time to be safe and not sorry!

Download the Let's Talk Guide and start a conversation about mental health

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How to help your child with anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling everyone experiences at some point. In some situations, anxiety can be helpful; it keeps us alert, protects us from danger and helps us notice problems around us. But for some kids and teens, that sense of anxiety grows too strong or too frequent and can get in the way of their normal activities.

One in four adolescents have mild to moderate anxiety, making it the most common mental health disorder among young people, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It is more common among girls, often overlaps with depression and can be seen even in young children. Because it can look different in each person and may or may not be triggered by a specific event or setting, it can be difficult for parents to recognize at first.

Whatever the symptoms, anxiety can really interrupt day-to-day life for both your child and you. Knowing the symptoms and learning some coping skills can support you in how to help your child with anxiety. 

Common symptoms of adolescent anxiety can include:

  • Feeling overly worried, nervous or afraid
  • Sleep problems
  • Muscle tension
  • Avoiding certain situations
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased heartrate
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Becoming easily tired

Seven tips to help you manage your child’s anxiety:

Help kids recognize their anxiety

Children and teens often don’t know they are anxious. Help them learn how their body responds to feeling worried or fearful; talk through their emotional and physical feelings with them so they can better identify it when it happens again.

Listen and show support

Encourage your child to open up about any fears and worries they have. Even if their fears seem irrational or exaggerated, let them know you care and think that what they feel is important.

Stick to a routine

Schedules and routines create a sense of structure, security and comfort. Try to make things seem normal for your child, even though they may not be.

Praise small accomplishments

Notice when your child follows through with trying something new or approaching something that makes them nervous. Tell them how much you admire them for trying and that trying is key regardless of the outcome.

Notice your own reactions

Pay attention to your own thoughts and feelings during stressful times. Try to stay calm and positive when your child is anxious.

Find treatment for your child

If worry is getting in the way of normal, daily activities, your child may benefit from therapy, counseling or medication. Talk with your doctor to decide what will work best for your family. If you’re having a hard time with your child’s anxiety, it may also help you to seek therapy or counseling, as well.

Get help

If your child expresses thoughts about wanting to harm themselves or is saying unsafe things, call 911 or bring them to the nearest Emergency Department.

Stay Informed about Mental Health

CHOC Children’s has made the commitment to take a leadership role in meeting the need for more mental health services in Orange County. Sign up today to keep informed about this important initiative.

Related posts:

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  • What to do if you feel suicidal
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Tips for Kids and Teens on How to Manage Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling everyone experiences at some point. In some situations, anxiety can be helpful; it keeps us alert, protects us from danger and helps us notice problems around us. But for some kids and teens, that sense of anxiety grows too strong or too frequent and can get in the way of their day-to-day activities, and these tips on how to manage anxiety can help.

One in four adolescents have mild to moderate anxiety, making it the most common mental health disorder among young people, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Anxiety can feel different to each person and may or may not seem to be triggered by a specific event or setting.

Whatever the symptom, anxiety can really interrupt your day-to-day life. Knowing what the symptoms are and learning some coping skills can help anxiety feel much more manageable.

Common symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • Feeling overly worried, nervous or afraid
  • Sleep problems
  • Muscle tension
  • Avoiding certain situations
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Becoming easily tired

Five tips to manage anxiety:

1. Find ways to relax

When you feel anxious, your muscles tense up, your heart rate increases, and your breathing gets shallower. Take deep breaths for a while to try to get your body back to a resting state.

Try This: Pretend your belly is a balloon. Breathe in to make it bigger, then breathe out and watch it shrink. Count slowly to four when you breathe in and then to four when you breathe out.

2. Face your fears

It might sound scary, but facing your fears is proven to help. It’s called exposure, and it involves taking small steps to getting yourself used to things that make you anxious.

Try this: Get the help of a parent or adult you trust and start with something small. They can help guide you through exposure to it until you start to become less anxious. Using the deep breathing exercise above will also help.

3. Take charge of your thinking

The tricky thing about anxiety is that it’s easy to think negative thoughts when you’re anxious. Pay attention to what you are saying to yourself, and avoid thinking negatively, jumping to conclusions or assuming the worst.

Try this: Ask yourself, “What would I tell my friend if they were in this situation?” or try thinking of times you’ve been able to handle a tough problem.

4. Get enough sleep

Anxiety can cause a frustrating cycle. When we’re anxious, it can be hard to sleep. But not getting enough sleep can make us feel more anxious. Try to eliminate the things that keep you awake and focus instead on setting aside some relaxing time before bed.

Try this: Dedicate the hour before bed to quiet time. Stay away from your phone, TV and computer—the bright lights trick your brain into staying awake longer. Try listening to calm music or meditating instead.

5. Get support

You never have to go through anxiety alone. Having people to turn to for support makes a big difference. A therapist, such as a psychologist, social worker or counselor, can help you understand and manage your feelings. This might be through talk therapy (also called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT), medication or a combination of both.

Always remember to call 911 if you are in a crisis or are feeling like you want to hurt yourself or others. Helplines are available by calling 1-800-273-TALK or texting “CONNECT” to 741741.

Stay Informed about Mental Health

CHOC Children’s has made the commitment to take a leadership role in meeting the need for more mental health services in Orange County. Sign up today to keep informed about this important initiative.

Related Posts

  • What to do if my child is suicidal: 8 tips for parents
    Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in children and adolescents. Here are eight things parents can do when they suspect their child is considering suicide.
  • What to do if you feel suicidal
    Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in children and adolescents – but it doesn’t have to be.If you are considering suicide or self-harm, pausing to take these ...
  • What to do if your friend is suicidal
    Suicide rarely happens without warning, and you might be in the best position to notice and assist a friend who needs help. Because suicide rarely happens without warning, you may ...