Eight Steps for Restoring Hope for Your Suicidal Teen
“Suicide in teens is about feeling utterly hopeless, out of control and unable to cope. The pain they are experiencing is intense and substantial, and in this moment suicide seems the only way out.”
As our children enter their adolescent years, parents are called upon less and less to provide guidance for them. Yet, there are many stresses in their lives, for them to navigate through. And when your child facing overwhelming pain what can you do?
While there are many tips like the one above for when our children become so overwhelmed by stressful circumstances, that they believe dying is the only way to stop the pain, we panic!!! What can we do? Here is a step-by-step process for that moment when your child tells you they want to commit suicide.
First: Take care of yourself! **BREATH** In these moments, it is hard to think straight, and in a panicked state we can say or do things that are not helpful. Take a deep breath… and another… do a third – this is very stressful, and getting your own stress level down is important. Breathing does this.
Second: Get emotionally honest. It is okay to tell your child that you are terrified that they will die. Its also important to remind them about just how much they mean to you, and what your life would be like without them in it.
Third: Speak frankly about suicide and death. An elder quote “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” (Alec Nelson, 2000). Remind your child that when this problem goes away, they do not get to come back from being dead.
Fourth: Connect and Ground them in this life. Remind them of stories of their preciousness. Tell them about when they were first born, or when you first learned about conceiving. Tell them about ways your life has changed you for the better because they are here. Tell happy stories of connections – to you, grandparents, aunts/uncles… childhood friends, camping trips – anything that would remind them of how their life makes others happy, or how they have been happy in the past, and that they can be happy again. Ask them if they remember any that they could tell you.
Fifth: Remind them of other times they were successful in figuring things out. Remind them of times when they were able to overcome difficulties, or help others in tough times. Let them know they can get through this, and you are there with them – they are not alone.
Sixth: Build a team of supporters – for both/all of you. Ask if there are other people he/she feels safe to contact when the thought of suicide comes. Ask if you can call them together now and set up a time for them to come sit with you both so you can share that you are struggling.
Seventh: Make a list of ways to ease the pain when it is difficult. Are there things they already do to ease their stress? What are they good at? What makes them feel better? Write a list of what they do to feel better (listen to music, go for walks, go to the water, write poetry, dance). Do these things together or with a identified supporter – Shift the energy!
Eighth: Take care of yourself. You need and deserve support too. Use this list for yourself as well. Be gentle, and compassionate with yourself. This is not easy, and lives are at stake. It is okay to get support.
For more information on Teen Counselling, or support, please contact us at 250 718-9291. In warmth and kindness…
This blog was written by:
Ruby Peterson, BSW, M.Ed., CCC