My Child Might Be Suicidal – What Can a Parent Do? Part 1

A Simple 3 Step Strategy That's Saving Lives

suicide.manos bourdakisSunday, September 10th, was World Suicide Prevention Day.

This is for parents who are concerned about their children. What do they need to know about suicide? They need to know there’s something they could do that might make the difference if they suspect their son or daughter is considering taking their life.

That’s great news. I never knew these things when my daughter was struggling.

This is part one of a three part series outlining a potentially life-saving technique called QPR = three simple steps (QPR steps) anyone can learn. It has been very effective across the country.

What is the number one cause of suicide?

Untreated depression.

When discovered, depression is highly treatable. Complicating factors arise, however, when a person self-medicates with alcohol – a depressant – or drugs.  As odd as it sounds, research shows that “once someone decides to end their life, the hours before death are often filled with a kind of chipperness, even blissful calm. This change in mood is a good time to apply QPR.”

Who needs to know this technique? Everyone – not just concerned parents.

Please share this information with your friends. Let’s spread the word and save lives.

The 3 steps are:

Question – the person about suicide.

Persuade – the person to get help.

Refer – the person to the appropriate resource.

The first step of asking “the question” is the focus of today’s blog.Asking your child if they are thinking of taking their lives takes a lot of courage. If you can’t bring yourself to do it, find someone who can. When in doubt don’t wait. This strategy is designed to interrupt the terrible journey from thinking about suicide to acting on it.

According to Dr. Quinett, creator of QPR, the warning signs described in my last blog are often given during the week preceding an attempt. Therefore, it’s vital to overcome reluctance and follow this process as soon as you notice any red flags.

How to Ask The Question

Plan a time and place to ask your child the “S” question. Try find a private space. You may need up to an hour, so allow adequate time. Don’t be in a hurry. When asked, most people need to talk. Good listening skills are vital. Don’t be too quick to fix them – just listen and empathize. Your child needs to be heard and know someone cares about their pain.

First, acknowledge their distress:

“Have you been unhappy lately? Have you been very unhappy lately? Have you been so very unhappy you wished you were dead?”

OR, “Do you ever wish you could go to sleep and never wake up?”

OR, “You know, when people are as upset as you seem to be, they sometimes wish they were dead. I’m wondering if you’re feeling that way, too?”

If you’re still not sure, then be more direct: “Have you ever wanted to stop living?”

OR, “You look pretty miserable. Are you thinking of killing yourself?”

OR, “I’m wondering if you are thinking about suicide?”

If these don’t sound like you, then rephrase them. Practice saying them out loud helps, too. If your son or daughter said something to you in a conversation that alarms you like, “I can’t take it anymore” OR “I’m done”, you could ask the “S” question immediately (in private).

“What you just said concerns me. Are you thinking of killing yourself?”

Asking the question is the MOST IMPORTANT step in QPR. It’s definitely the hardest, but it’s the most beneficial.

Why? My friend, Aaron Moore (a counselor who does QPR training) explains that simply being asked brings relief, NOT distress, contrary to popular belief. Whew!

Anxiety decreases and hope increases.

A chance to go on living has been offered.

It is almost as if, by asking the question, we provided a ray of light where there’s only been utter darkness.

Asking the question does NOT increase risk. How great to know!

In Part 2, on Wednesday, September 13th, I’ll explain the next two steps of QPR, Persuade and Refer. But you can read more about the technique on their website:

The fear of your child dying by suicide is one of the worst fears a parent can have. I know. I’ve been there and I wished I had known about this technique.

I pray this Bible verse will strengthen you:

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27, NIV).


A book that encouraged me, written by a couple who experienced a great deal of suffering, is Do Not Lose Heart by Dave and Jan Dravecky.

For further reading on suicide: Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide by Kay Redfield Jamison, a renowned clinical psycholoigst on this topic. She writes from personal experience as one who also suffers with bipolar.

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