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Always Take it Seriously

On the September Newsletter…

September 8-14th is Suicide Prevention Week, and I wanted to give a little time to that on my newsletter and blog. Even though suicide is a heavy and difficult topic for many of us, discussion is an important first step toward prevention. Unfortunately, it’s not that uncommon for children in my care (even young children) to make comments about wishing they were dead or wanting to hurt themselves.

Sometimes parents feel confused about how to respond to these statements particularly when they only seem to get said during moments of high frustration or to “get out of something.” Parents worry that if they “give in” to the suicidal comments by paying attention to them, they’ll be reinforcing that behavior in the future. My advice? Always, always take statements like this seriously.

Even if you’re certain it’s a ploy for attention, things must be feeling pretty bad for a child if that’s the card they have to play in order to get noticed. By ignoring it, we teach children and teens that we don’t notice nor care if they’re thinking about hurting themselves. Next time it happens, stop what you’re doing, physically get on their level, and exercise patience. Start with, “Wow, things must be feeling pretty bad for you right now if you’re wishing you were dead. Can you talk to me about why you feel that way?”

Focus your attention on trying to connect and understand. If they didn’t mean what they said, calmly help them understand the gravity of those words, and brainstorm more appropriate statements they can make to express their feelings and needs. Strongly consider getting them professional help as well.

On the other hand, if their thoughts are serious, remember the acronym PATH – if they have a Plan for how they’d hurt themselves, Access to those means, frequent Thoughts of death or suicide, and a personal or family History of attempts, that is an urgent situation and you should seek help immediately.

Suicide Hotline – 1-800-273-8255

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