Awhile back I talked about the symptoms our son Bud had that led to us finally realizing that he needed emotional help (that story can be found here).
Suffice it to say that one day Bud texted me from school saying, “I might as well kill myself.” Art and I read that as a suicide threat, so we immediately called the school and took action to make sure Bud was protected. Later, Bud asked me why we made such a big deal. “I wasn’t going to kill myself,” he told me. “I just said I might as well since nothing was going right.” Huh? Is that teenage logic? How am I, as a parent, supposed to know the difference? Is there a difference?
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry:
When a child makes a serious threat it should not be dismissed as just idle talk. Parents, teachers, or other adults should immediately talk with the child. If it is determined that the child is at risk and the child refuses to talk, is argumentative, responds defensively, or continues to express violent or dangerous thoughts or plans, arrangements should be made for an immediate evaluation by a mental health professional with experience evaluating children and adolescents. – AACAP
In retrospect, now more than 3 1/2 years later, I believe we did the right thing. After we called the school, the vice-principal and Bud’s counselor immediately pulled Bud out of class and kept him in a quiet room until we got there. Bud felt that the treatment was harsh, but I know that the school was looking out for his safety, even if “bedside manners” were not the best. In addition, if this incident had not occurred, we might never have realized the extent of Bud’s insomnia or depression and he would not have received the help he so badly needed. I would encourage you, even if your child is a “drama king” to take any threat of harm seriously.
Since I originally wrote this post three years ago, we have had a few more cries for help from Bud, which called for medication adjustments, and therapy or lifestyle changes. Below is a list of some common warning signs for teenage (and young adult) suicide from Naami.org:
- Prior Suicide Attempts
- Talking About or Threatening Suicide
- Making a Plan
- Giving Away Prized Possessions
- Preoccupation with Death
- Signs of Depression, Hopelessness, Anxiety
- Increased Drug and/or Alcohol Use
If you notice any of these signs in someone you care about, please, at the very least start a dialogue with that person, or if possible, seek professional help.
For more information, you can visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.