Welcome to Catherine Gruener’s Encouragement Parenting Tips for September! Each month, WU World Changer Catherine Gruener will share new tips that will encourage you to learn new, positive parenting techniques!
Encouragement Parenting Tips for September: SPECIAL EDITION — Suicide Prevention Month
September is Suicide Prevention Month.
Suicide can be a scary word. People don\’t want to say the word, don\’t want to think of the word, and don\’t want to discuss it. And it’s hard to believe that a child or adolescent might think, plan, or act upon it. From confusion to anger, the word suicide conjures many different and often complex feelings.
The act of suicide is a hopeless and lonely act. Someone has usually gotten to a place where they feel very alone. They often do not feel connected with others, do not know their significance to others, and have no hope for the future. Because ideas of not wanting to be around, not wanting to live, not wanting to endure the pain that they are or have experienced in life, coupled with mistaken beliefs that what is transpiring in their life will “always” be, that others won\’t understand, can\’t help, or that they will be ridiculed in some way, shape, or form. People who are suffering, often suffer in silence.
Children are not immune to suicide ideation, plans, and attempts.
About 5 percent of children and adolescents in the general population suffer from depression at any given point in time. Depression is a real, treatable brain illness and health problem. Depression can be caused by big transitions in life, stress, or changes in body chemicals that affect thoughts and moods. A child who used to play often with friends may now spend most of the time alone and without interests. Things that were once fun now bring little joy to the depressed child. Children and adolescents who cause trouble at home or at school may also be suffering from depression.
Because the youngster may not always seem sad, parents and teachers may not realize that troublesome behavior is a sign of depression. When asked directly, these children can sometimes state they are unhappy or sad. Children and adolescents who are depressed may say they want to be dead or may talk about suicide.
Depressed children and adolescents are at increased risk for committing suicide.
Your best defense against suicide is to know the warning signs. Talk about it. Ask about it. And do something about it.
Warning Signs in Children and Adolescents:
- Pre-occupation with Death.
- Verbally talking about killing oneself.
- Saying, “I am going to kill myself.” “I wish I were dead.” “I can\’t take it anymore, I am going to end this.” “I don\’t want to be around anymore.” Even if you think your child is a drama queen or king, please listen, ask, and seek help. These words are serious, and I urge you to take those words seriously.
- Detailed plans or descriptions on what they “wish” or “want” to do in order to end things, go away, or die (involving harm to self or others).
- Notes and letters talking about suicide.
- A change in behavior, appearance, thoughts and/or feelings (often becoming seclusive and withdrawn, no longer “fighting”).
If your child has had or is diagnosed with depression or is being untreated for depression, followed by:
A sudden drastic positive change in behavior (relief, peace), giving prized possessions away, making final arrangements (making amendments, clearing one\’s conscious, etc.).
Get Help Immediately!
What You Can Do:
- Be active in your child\’s life. Be observant. Stay involved.
- If your child says anything that sounds like self-harm and hopelessness, or suicide. Stay calm.
- Ask them, “Have you had any thoughts about hurting yourself?” And listen. Allow them to talk.
- Focus on your connection with them, your concern for them, and your desire to want to help them. Do not judge. Keep the focus on them-not on you, and stay calm.
- If they say that they want to die, ask them how long they have had the thoughts? How big are the feelings around those thoughts? How much and how long have those thoughts been coming up for them? Did they make any plans to follow through with the thoughts? Have they tried to hurt or kill themselves?
- Reassure them that there is help, and that together, you will get the help that they need to no longer feel that way. And stay with them.
If your child says that they want to kill themselves, and has recently attempted to harm themselves, has or has had a vague or specific plan, this is a crisis!
- Do not leave them alone; provide constant supervision (even in the bathroom).
- Have others remove any environmental risks (firearms, ropes, knives, sharp objects or things they can hurt themselves with).
- If you know your local pediatric and adolescent inpatient mental health hospital, bring your child in immediately for an intake. Most parents don’t have this resource, so take your child to the nearest Emergency Room. They will help keep your child safe. If your child refuses to go, call 911. Do not try to handle a crisis situation on your own.
Know the signs. Talk about it. Ask about it. And do something about it!
Children with impulse issues, or impulse disorders, children with a diagnosis of depression and or other mental health diagnoses, and adolescents who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol are at a greater risk of harming themselves on impulse. This increases their risk if they have any of the warning signs of suicidal ideation.
Empower your children to tell a caregiving adult (parent, teacher, counselor) immediately if they hear anyone say that they will hurt themselves or others in any way.
#BeThe1 to save a life.
Suicide Hotline Prevention Lifeline (800) 273-8255
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Catherine Gruener, LCPC, NCC, DCC, PDTC. Catherine is a multi-certified and licensed clinical professional counselor, nationally and internationally known for her parent training programs. She is the owner of Gruener Consulting and the Chief Executive Officer of the Encouragement Parenting Division.