Has your son or daughter expressed thoughts of suicide on their social media sites? Have you discovered email messages or texts that cause you to think they want to end their life? They may use any form of social media to do this such as – Facebook, twitter, email, tumbler, or even as a Youtube video. According to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline these are a few of the warning signs to look for in their writings:
- Writing about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
- Writing about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Writing about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
- Writing about being a burden to others.
- Writing about seeking revenge.
- Click here to go to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline’s website to see more information and resources on this subject. Go “like” their facebook page, too!
If you have made this discovery about your child you now have another problem . . . fear. In the past I have found fear about my child’s welfare to be a constant unwelcomed guest. It harasses me during the day and hounds me in my sleep at night.
The fear of suicide is the biggest fear you could have for your child. What could be worse? It’s like having a hideous monster under your bed or in your closet. It’s an immobilizing sense of dread. It’s the nightmare you can’t get over that feels so real after you wake up. It’s the shadow lurking behind every corner; the crazy cat hiding in the bushes for the right moment to jump out, scaring the ba-jeebers (is that a real word?) out of you.
But as the responsible parent you can’t let this awful fear stop you from taking action. You have to do something to try and save their life. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline recommends you report it if you see this kind of content on anyone’s social media site. But this is your child we are talking about, so you what do you do?
Here are a few ideas . . . Take what you like and leave the rest, as they say in Al-Anon. This is what we did when we discovered suicidal thoughts in our daughter’s writings when she was under 18 and still in our home:
1) Carefully choose the right time to talk to them as soon as possible (within 24 hours – don’t delay). Their life may be at stake. Ask a few close friends to pray – they don’t need to know the reason if you don’t feel ready to share. Tell them you need to have a very important conversation with your son/daughter that you need them to pray with you about. You need God to prepare their heart and you need wisdom . . . lots of it.
- Lovingly and calmly tell your child you are very concerned about them over something you discovered they wrote.
- Find a neutral place in your home to do this. Get on their level – maybe you both sit on the floor, or at a table or on a bed.
- Be comfortable. Keep your emotions under control. Don’t yell or get hysterical. Your tone will set the atmosphere for how well this conversation goes. Be prepared to set everything else aside and even be up all night if necessary.
- Focus on asking open-ended questions (they don’t have a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer). Then wait for them to be ready to open up and talk. Ask them to tell you about these feelings and thoughts of suicide you discovered. What’s happening in their life that they feel like this? If they begin to talk, notice key words. Then ask about them. If they talk about feeling alone, say something like, “I’m so sorry you feel alone. Please tell me more about that. How long have you been feeling this way?”
- Listen, listen, listen. Empathize. Tell them you hurt with them and are here to help.
- Don’t try to fix them or say “you shouldn’t feel like this or think like that”. Those are conversation stoppers and will shut them down faster than anything.
2) Take them to their doctor for a physical. Sometimes this can be a result of a health issue you were not aware of.
3) Take them to a counselor as soon as possible for an evaluation and at least a few sessions. They may recommend a psychiatric evaluation to determine if they are suffering from a brain disorder (mental illness: Major Depression, Bipolar, Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive or Schizophrenia).
4) If the doctor or a psychiatrist recommends medication, don’t let this be their only “treatment”. My counselor friends say people who are depressed enough to have suicidal thoughts need counseling along with medication for well-rounded, truly effective treatment.
5) Remind yourself that God is in control. He is bigger than your biggest fears. He can conquer every monster, defeat every enemy, calm your frazzled nerves, soothe your tormented soul. He can give you the strength and courage you need to get through this.
6) Remember You Are Not Alone! God is with you! He will never leave you or forsake you.
7) Pray. Pray. Pray. Give your child and all your fears for their welfare to God.
8) If you have a church call your pastor or spiritual leader and let them offer you the support you need during this difficult time. If you are really struggling what can it hurt to see a counselor a few times for yourself? This can be quite a traumatic experience.
9) Don’t go through this alone. If you find out your child has a condition where they need longer term care (counseling, medication, psychiatric care) you also need “care”. Share with a few close friends you know are safe and trustworthy. You need their love and support. Their friendship can be such a gift. Ask them to commit to pray for your child and for you every day. If you don’t have these kinds of people in your life, visit a church in your area and make an effort to get connected. There is a loving community somewhere in your neighborhood just waiting for you to let them help you in your time of need. I don’t know what I would have done without my friends and church family.
Here are 3 of my favorite Bible verses that I turn to when I feel afraid for my daughter:
- “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
- “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1)
- “Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7)
Here are a two more resources on the subject of suicide with lots of excellent information: