My Child Might Be Suicidal – What Can a Parent Do? Part 2

Listening Can Save A Life

You’re worried out of your mind that your son or daughter may be thinking about taking their life. Does it torment you that you don’t know for sure if they’re in danger? Have you been baffled by what to do to keep them safe, other than locking them in their room and keeping vigil 24/7? No one can do that for long.

I’ve been in your shoes. I know the agony. I wouldn’t wish that torment on anyone.


photo cred.Mary Donovan


This is a series on suicide and the QPR method for prevention that was developed by Dr. Paul Quinnett at the QPR Institute:  I learned about it when I attended one of their workshops.

Please read my last two blog posts to familiarize yourself with the warning signs, and the first step of this method, “Question”.

QPR is an acrostic for: Question, Persuade, Refer. Today’s post explains the Persuade step. You can read more about this life-saving technique on QPR Institute’s website.

Persuade – This step begins with the simple act of listening. Being a good listener can save a life. Listening well is the greatest gift you can give your child. Avoid offering advice.

Do these things instead:

  • Give your full attention.
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Don’t be in a hurry.
  • Don’t make judgments or condemn.
  • Tame your own fears so that you can focus on the other person.

It’s not an easy task.

After asking the “S” question explained in my last blog, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”, listen for the problems they believe their death would solve. Confirm your guesses and suspicions with follow-up questions. If they nod their head or say yes, then, as unlikely as it may seem, you’ve helped them to find a way to live.

The goal of the persuasion step is to hear confirmation of your suspicions – then get help.

A yes to any of the following questions is your next goal:

  • “Will you go with me to see a counselor?” (or priest, rabbi, school counselor, school nurse, psychologist, or any professional they’re willing to see).
  • “Will you let me help you make an appointment?”
  • “Will you promise me . . . ?” (Not to kill yourself until this works?)

Often they won’t follow through because they feel too helpless and hopeless. That’s why it’s a good idea to get the person to agree to go on living.

Say something like, “I want you to live. Won’t you please stay alive until we can get you some help?”

It’s been reported that just making the promise not to hurt or kill oneself, but to go on living, tends to bring relief and the fulfillment of that promise. Dr. Quinnett says the response is almost always yes. The power of the relationship you have with your son or daughter (or whoever it might be) is the key.


What if they say no?

You can still do something. Refusal doesn’t mean QPR failed. Now you know they’re definitely in danger, so you can take action. As of today the laws of our country say it’s not allowed for an individual to die by suicide. It’s not an acceptable solution for life’s problems. Provisions have been made to help keep suicidal people alive and protect them from themselves.

If you’re concerned your child is at risk please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  Anyone can call, any day of the year, any time, including holidays.

In my next post on Monday, September 18th, I’ll explain the third and final step, Refer.

Father, please comfort every person who reads this, who cares about someone who’s feeling suicidal today, especially if it’s their son or daughter. Give them courage to ask the “S” question and engage in the persuade process. Use them to bring relief. Breathe life and strength into their own souls as well. Stay close while they endure the most difficult days of their life. Thank you for how much You care about all Your children.

In the life-giving name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.

I find hope in the Scriptures. This is one verse I turn to:

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5).



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