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

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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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Rising Rates of Children’s Hospital Visits for Suicide Thoughts, Attempts

The percentage of patients seen at U.S. children’s hospitals each year for suicidal thoughts or attempts has increased steadily, according to a recent study published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in children and young adults ages 10-24.

Rising rates for suicide thoughts, attempts infographic

Learn the warning signs of suicide in children and adolescents

Mental Health Inpatient Center

Our Mental Health Inpatient Center, which opened in April 2018, is the only center in Orange County that can accommodate children younger than 12. The 18-bed Center is designed for patients ages 3 to 17.

ASPIRE® Intensive Outpatient Program at CHOC Children’s

This intervention (four afternoons/evenings per week for eight weeks) is intended to prevent psychiatric hospitalization and re-admission in high school teens ages 13-18. CHOC opened the IOP in early 2018.

Mental health screenings in primary care settings and the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital

One-third of all visits to pediatricians are solely for psychological reasons. To support immediate assessment and intervention in primary care, CHOC is providing depression screenings in its own clinics and promoting embedded mental health care in pediatric practices. We also provide depression screenings in the CHOC emergency department.

Mental health triage at the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital

Implemented in fall 2016 with public and private funds, the innovative family-based crisis intervention model helps families address mental health crises and is already reducing psychiatric hospitalizations (25 percent reduction) and time spent in the emergency department (17 percent reduction).

CHOC Children’s is taking a leadership role in tackling the pediatric mental health crisis in Orange County. Half of children with symptoms of mental health disorders have conditions that cause significant impairment in daily life. In Orange County, 20 percent of youth reported needing help for mental health problems, while less than a third actually received that help.

Learn more about CHOC’s commitment to mental health

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 ...

 

Depression and Suicide Prevention: Know the Warning Signs

All children experience days or periods of sadness or other deep emotion. It’s when those feelings are persistent and last longer than a several weeks that it may be time to seek professional help, according to mental health experts at CHOC Children’s.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals ages 10-24 in the United States. Suicidal children and adolescents may have depression, or a combination of other mental illnesses such as anxiety disorder, attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, or child-onset schizophrenia, says Dr. Heather Huszti, chief psychologist at CHOC Children’s.

Dr. Heather Huszti

Other signs that children may be depressed include:

  • Changes in behavior, including appetite
  • No longer enjoying activities they used to like
  • Changes in sleeping pattern
  • Always feeling tired,
  • Isolating themselves socially
  • These changes may be especially concerning if connected to a significant loss or change

“It’s difficult to imagine that children as young as 10 could attempt to end their lives, but unfortunately it can happen,” says Huszti. “The first thing parents can do to help their children is talking openly about mental health issues and any concerns they might have, including talking about the potential warning signs.”

Download your copy of CHOC’s “Let’s Talk About It” guide and learn how you can help start a conversation about mental health.

Warning signs that a child may be considering suicide include:

  • Giving away possessions or making a will
  • Threatening, planning, or joking about suicide
  • Sending despairing texts or online messages
  • Expressing feelings of failure or shame
  • Avoiding friends and social situations
  • Engaging in risky behavior

Always take warning signs seriously, advises Huszti. If your child, or anyone else, is in immediate danger of self-harm, call 911. Other local and nationwide resources are available, such as 24/7 suicide prevention lines and 24/7 crisis response services.

Learn more about CHOC’s commitment to mental health

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