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Dealing with a Suicidal Teen?

Since September is Suicide Prevention Month, I thought this would be a perfect blog topic. Is your child making suicidal statements? Are you scared that your child may harm themselves? Been in and out of hospitals trying to keep your teen safe? Suicide is scary. I totally hear that. I am here to tell you that help is out there. I have 10 plus years of experience working on a suicide and crisis hotline. I would love to talk with you and your teen separately or together. I can provide tools and guidelines to help families navigate through this tough situation.

When dealing with a suicidal teen it is vital that parents validate the teens feelings even if you don't agree with them. It is important to always take the same approach to suicidal statements, so the child knows the protocol regarding their safety. Here are some steps to take if you are in this situation with your teenager.

See if child can make a plan to stay safe and if not see step 2.

  1. If your child makes suicidal statements and are in crisis- encourage them to call Colorado Crisis Hotline 844-493-8255 (if in Colorado) or Lifeline (National Suicide Hotline) 800-273-8255 for support and suicide assessment.

  2. If your child is resistant to calling a crisis hotline, see if there are Walk in Crisis Centers near your area. In your internet browser search “Walk in Crisis Centers” and a list should come up.

  3. If they refuse to engage in either option, then the Emergency Room is next step. They will do a suicide assessment there and if they determine that your child cannot stay safe in the home, they can legally keep them up to 72 hours (may be different in every state).

If child refuses all of the above, it is ok to say to them " I cannot let you harm yourself and you have chosen not to engage in the options given so I need to call a Welfare Check". Welfare Check means calling the local Police Department and letting them know of the situation. Ask if they can come out with a mental health staff (some PD's have them). They will come out and ask your teen if they are suicidal and if they are safe. They CANNOT "force" your teen to the ED if your teen denies suicide and states they can stay safe.

I know this may seem hard to do but I think it is important for a professional to do the suicide assessment vs. the parent. Professionals, like me, are trained and experienced with these issues. Asking parents to assess their own child can lead to conflict as usually tension and emotions are running high.

If you are struggling with a teen dealing with suicide, please reach out and give me a call. I will help you navigate this fearful and often tricky dynamic.

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