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Help Prevent Suicide in Children and Adolescents
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What do I need to know about suicide prevention for my child?
Your child may see suicide as the only way to escape emotional or physical pain and suffering. You can help provide emotional support for your child and get the help he or she needs. Learn to recognize warning signs that your child may be considering suicide. Resources are available to help you and your child.
What should I do if I think my child is considering suicide?
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if you feel your child is at immediate risk of suicide. Also call if he or she talks about an active suicide plan. Assume that your child intends to carry out the plan. The following are some things you can do:
- Contact a suicide prevention organization:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)
- Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE)
- For a list of international numbers: https://save.org/find-help/international-resources/
- Contact your child's therapist. Your child's healthcare provider can give you a list of therapists if he or she does not have one.
- Keep medicines, weapons, and alcohol out of your child's reach.
- Do not leave your child alone. Stay with your child if he or she says he or she wants to commit suicide or you think he or she may try it. Make sure you do not put yourself at risk if your child has a weapon.
- Ask if your child is thinking of ending his or her life. Ask if he or she has a plan for hurting or killing himself or herself.
What warning signs should I watch for?
Your child may injure himself or herself in an attempt to feel better. These actions are often a sign that he or she needs help. Do not ignore injuries or any of the following warning signs:
- Talking about a plan for committing suicide
- Poor school performance, not turning in homework, or a struggle with subjects that were not difficult before
- Doing dangerous actions that could kill him or her
- Cuts or burns on your child's skin, or reckless driving
- Joking, reading, or writing about suicide, killing, or death
- Statements that your child will not see you again or that soon he or she will not be a problem for you
- Sudden withdrawal from others or not doing things he or she usually enjoys
- Feeling sad every day, then suddenly being very happy and cheerful after a time of depression and sadness
- Changes in how your child eats, sleeps, or dresses
- Weight gain or loss, or having less energy than usual
- Trouble sleeping or spending a lot of time sleeping
- Your child has been taking medicine for a mental illness and suddenly refuses to take it
- Your child has been going to therapy for a mental illness and suddenly refuses to go
What may increase my child's risk for suicide?
- Alcohol or drug use in adolescents
- Death of an important person, or the anniversary of that person's death
- A past suicide attempt, or someone close to him or her attempted or committed suicide
- Mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Chronic pain, or a serious illness, such as heart disease or cancer
- Being physically dependent on others
- Mental, physical, or sexual abuse
- A history of violence or aggression toward others, or feeling guilty for hurting someone else
- Stress from a breakup or loss of a friendship, or loneliness
- Struggling with being gay, lesbian, or bisexual
How will healthcare providers help my child?
- A healthcare provider will talk to your child. The provider will talk to your child without you so your child can be honest about how he or she feels. The provider will ask about suicide plans and how often your child thinks about suicide. The provider will ask your child if he or she has tried it before and if he or she has begun to hurt himself or herself. He or she may also ask if your child has weapons or drugs.
- A healthcare provider will work with your child to create a safety plan. The plan will include a list of people or groups for your child to contact if he or she has suicidal feelings again. Your child may be asked to make a verbal agreement or sign a contract with you that he or she will not try to harm himself or herself.
What treatment may my child need?
- Therapy can help your child work through problems. Your child may receive therapy from school counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, or others. Ask your healthcare provider for a list of mental health professionals or support groups that can help your child. The provider may recommend that your child be admitted to the hospital for his or her own safety.
- Medicines can help your child feel well enough to continue with all of the treatment he or she needs. Tell your child that it may take several weeks before the medicine starts to help him or her feel better. You will need to watch your child closely for changes in behavior or mood during the first 4 weeks he or she is taking it. Do not let your child stop taking this medicine unless directed. A sudden stop can be harmful.
What can I do to help my child?
Connections, support, and safety are all important in suicide prevention for children and adolescents. Do not make your child feel you are judging him or her. Do not tell your child that his or her suicide would be hard on you or others. Tell your child you are here to support and help him or her. The following are ways you and others can help your child:
- Listen when your child wants to talk. Let your child know that you take his or her feelings and thoughts very seriously. Help your child understand that he or she can talk to you, another adult, or a close friend about his or her feelings. Your child can also talk to a therapist, religious or youth leader, or school counselor. Give your child time to respond. It may help to tell him or her about something similar that happened to you, and what you did. Stay positive and supportive.
- Help your child think of solutions to problems. Your child may think problems are permanent and may think suicide is a solution. You can help your child realize the problem has a better solution. For example, if your child is being bullied, work with officials to find a solution. Help your child understand what you are doing to help him or her be safe. Your child may worry that he or she will never have another relationship after a breakup. Do not minimize your child's feelings or tell him or her it was just a crush. Assure your child that he or she can feel better. One of the best skills you can teach your child is how to recover after something bad happens.
- Help your child make a list of things he or she hopes to do. Encourage your child to make plans for what he or she is going to do for the next day, month, and year. Help your child make goals for his or her life. Encourage your child to start doing things to make the goals happen.
- Give your child the contact information for services that can help him or her. Talk to your child about therapy and medicines available to help him or her. Your child may follow through with treatment if he or she feels included in the planning.
- Help your child spend time with family and friends. Get your child involved with school events, a local community center, or activity groups. Connections can help him or her feel valued and loved.
- Help your child create healthy routines. Help your child make a bedtime schedule so he or she does not get too little or too much sleep. Encourage your child to be active. It may help to start a routine such as a walk with the whole family after dinner. Healthy routines can help relieve depression. A walk may also be a good time for you to talk with your child about his or her feelings.
- Encourage your child to take medicine and go to therapy as directed. Medicine and therapy can help improve your child's mental health.
Where can I find support and more information?
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
New York , NY 10004
Phone: 1- 800 - 273-TALK (8255)
Web Address: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
- Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
8120 Penn Ave. S., Ste. 470
Bloomington , Minnesota 55431
Phone: 1- 952 - 946-7998
Web Address: http://www.save.org
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:
- Your child does something on purpose to hurt himself or herself, such as cutting his or her wrists.
- Your child swallows medicines or other harmful substances, such as antifreeze.
- Your child says he or she wants to commit suicide.
When should I call my child's therapist or pediatrician?
- Your child feels that he or she cannot stop from hurting himself or herself, or others.
- Your child has sudden mood changes, such as angry outbursts or despair.
- You begin to see warning signs that your child may be considering suicide.
- Your child has changes in behavior when he or she starts on depression medicine or his or her dose is changed.
- Your child acts out in anger or has reckless behavior.
- Your child withdraws from friends or loved ones.
- You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your or his or her healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child.The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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