3 weeks ago - last edited 3 weeks ago
Ask a Child and Family Professional
"Thoughts of suicide: My teen is suicidal, what do I do and how do I get help?"
The thought of your child harming themselves is overwhelming. It is a difficult time but there are steps you can take to help you both navigate this and increase safety for your teen. However, if your teen is at immediate risk- call “000” or take them to hospital.
Strengthen your support team:
The more supports you have around you and your teen the better, whether they are formal or informal. A good first point of contact is your GP to organise a mental health care plan to access mental health support if needed. In times of COVID-19, telehealth and virtual appointments are available. It can also be helpful to invite your teen to identify people they would like to include on their support team – family, friends, teachers, coaches, mentors, etc. as well as the type of support they would like from them.
Talk to your teen about when, how often, and the type of thoughts they have. This will help you to find ways to build safety – a Safety Plan. This may include things like agreeing to lock away medications and blades, having support hotlines visible in the home e.g. Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467, Lifeline – 13 11 14 and Kids Helpline – 1800 55 1800, and when to take your teen to hospital or call an ambulance. This may be a helpful article to read:
Open up the lines of communication:
If emotions are overwhelming your teen, they may not be able to or want to express them outwardly, but it’s important that you and your teen can track how they are feeling. Find a way to communicate that suits them. They may not be able to sit across a table from you and let you know exactly how they are feeling… but they may be able to check in via text from another room with a planned word or phrase that lets you know whether they are having a low, medium or good day. Talk to them about how to recognise their warning signs and their coping strategies for bad days, so that you can both be prepared.
Build hope and connection:
Look for opportunities to increase your teen’s sense of hope, strengthen their resilience, and connect with others. This will be different for every teen, so tap into what they are passionate about – show interest in their computer game or Tik Tok, join them in walking their dog, encourage their creativity and do it together!
Remember to look after yourself:
Self-care is more important now than ever. You need to be well to be able to care and support your teen, but stress and exhaustion reduces our patience, pulls apart our wellbeing, and leaves us focusing on the negative. Find supports and strategies for your self-care and look for small and meaningful ways to fill up your wellbeing tank every day.
Child & Family Professional, The Benevolent Society
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