There's no doubt about it: Talking to a teenager, especially one showing signs of trouble, can be scary for a parent. But there's no way around it. If you suspect your child may be contemplating suicide, your first move is the most obvious one: Ask about it.
Put it in context by explaining why you're asking. Mention the behaviors that are worrying you. Don't badger. Simply open the door so your teen knows you're there to listen. Extending your hand in that way can go a long way toward reducing your child's sense of isolation, even if he or she doesn't take you up on it immediately.
Additional ways you can take action include:
- Talk to your child's teacher, coach, close friends or religious advisor
- Double-check to make sure firearms and prescription (or other) drugs are unavailable to your teen in the home
- Pay attention -- watch and listen to your teen so you can pick up on indicators of immediate danger
- Schedule an appointment with a mental health professional (social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist)
If your teen refuses to see a therapist, suggest family therapy instead. If you do make an appointment but then your child starts to feel better, don't cancel it. Suicidal feelings can come and go.
If your teen is actively planning to or has attempted suicide, seek immediate help at a medical facility. The emergency room will be able to help, regardless of whether there is a physical injury present.
Finally, one of the most important things to understand: Suicidal thoughts or behaviors are treatable. There are several options …