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Supporting a Child with Suicidal Thoughts

By Melanie Phillips, LCSW

As a parent, it is difficult to hear your child talk about suicide and even more difficult to know how to help, but there are ways that you can support them. Most importantly, if you feel that your child is in immediate danger, bring your child to the nearest emergency room or call 911.

If your child is not in immediate danger, here are some steps you can take.

  • Take all warning signs seriously. Warning signs from your child may include talking about death or suicide, giving away possessions or saying goodbye, talking about feeling worthless or hopeless, self-harming, or isolating themselves for long periods of time.
  • Speak openly with your child about your concerns and be direct when asking about suicide. Sometimes children and adolescents are more comfortable with writing down how they are feeling. Writing back and forth in a journal with your child can be a great way to open up a dialogue.
  • Let your child know that you hear them. Listen to your child without judgment and let them know that they are not alone. Be willing to talk about their feelings, even if you do not understand or agree with them.
  • Secure sharp objects, medications, and weapons. Let your child know that this is for their safety and not a punishment for how they are feeling or for talking with you. It is to keep them safe.
  • Talk with your child about activities that they enjoy doing. Build those activities into a daily schedule when possible. Make time to engage in some of these activities with your child.

Remember, it’s OK to not have all of the answers. Reach out to your child’s pediatrician or a mental health professional if you have questions or concerns.

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