My teen might be suicidal; what do I do?

A suicidal child is one of the most frightening and devastating situations any parent can encounter. The appropriate behavior and language on your part can be instrumental in diffusing the immediate crisis, enabling you to obtain help and create a safe environment.

  • Remain calm and start a conversation.
  • Tell your loved one that you are worried about him or her and you care.
  • Its okay to ask directly, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” By asking directly, your teen may feel relieved and give them a chance to talk openly about how they are feeling. Their response will help you understand if they are in danger. If they are not suicidal-only showing signs of depression- they stll should be connected with a mental health professional.
  • Take any threat from your teen to hurt himself or herself seriously!
  • Do not challenge your loved one to “do it” or “go ahead.”
  • Never say suicide is stupid, or tell them to “snap out of it.”
  • Ask caring questions and listen to his or her answers. Listening shows respect and helps your teen express why they are thinking about suicide.
  • Reassure your teen that you know how to get him or her help.
  • Stay close to your loved one while you contact a trusted health professional.
  • Remove items that may harm your loved one, such as knives and guns.

If your child (17 yrs of age or younger) is having suicidal thoughts, call the mobile crisis unit:
Northern New Castle County (north of the canal): 302-633-5128
Southern New Castle County (south of the canal): 1-800-969-HELP (4357)
Kent County: 302-678-3782
Sussex County: 302-424-HELP (4357)
If you have a problem finding a therapist for your child, call 1-800-722-7710.

If your teen (18 yrs of age and older) is having suicidal thoughts, encourage him or her to call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If he or she is unwilling or is in immediate crisis, call 911, or the mobile crisis unit at 302-577-2484(NCC) or 1-800-652-2929(KE/SU).

What to do if your teen attempts suicide

  • If your loved one has already attempted suicide, you play an important role in his or her treatment.
  • The hospital will decide if he or she should be released. If you feel that your loved one is still in danger, tell the treatment team dealing with the case.
  • Some teens will try to say anything it takes to get out of treatment, and think they can help themselves on their own. A suicide attempt is very serious and needs to be dealt with professionally. You and your family must encourage ongoing treatment.
  • What to do in the hospital emergency room

Ask direct questions to the doctor or therapist such as:

  • “How can I help my child?”
  • “Do I need to make a follow-up appointment?”
  • “What signs can I look for at home?”

Also, be sure to ask your loved one questions such as:

  • “Do you feel safe to leave the hospital?”
  • “How is your relationship with your doctor?”
  • “What else can I do for you?”
  • “Will you agree to talk to me/us if you feel suicidal again?”

What to do at home:

  • Remove guns, sharp objects and even pain medicines. Overdoses are common, even if it’s Tylenol or aspirin. Decrease the amount of alcohol in the house as well.
  • Make a safety plan with the therapist or doctor. Tell the doctor or therapist your loved one’s habits, likes and dislikes, and tell them what is going on in his or her life that may have “triggered” the attempt.
  • Encourage your loved one to communicate openly. Connections are critical in treatment. It may be necessary to get an additional therapist or doctor involved for treatment to be most effective.
  • Make sure to listen to your loved one. Understand the “triggers” that may increase his or her stress. Common triggers arise from relationship problems, school, change, loss of a loved one or a traumatic experience.
  • If your child has alcohol or drug abuse issues, seek out a substance abuse specialist. It’s very common for a depressed teen who also abuses alcohol and drugs to attempt to treat his or her own disorder.