When a Child Wants to End It All

When a Child Wants to End It All

 During recent years the adolescent suicide rate has risen sharply in some lands. What is going on? Is your child at risk?

In this article

 Children and suicide—why should parents be concerned?

 From 2009 to 2019, the United States saw a 40 percent increase in the number of high school students with symptoms of depression. The suicide rate also rose during that period. a

 “The challenges today’s generation of young people face are unprecedented . . . The effect these challenges have had on their mental health is devastating.”—Vivek H. Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General.

 Bible principle: “A crushed spirit saps one’s strength.”—Proverbs 17:22.

 How do you know if your child is at risk?

 Consider the following factors.

  •   Events. Has your child dealt with a tragedy—a rejection, a breakup, a failure of some kind, or the death of a loved one? If so, could it be affecting her b more than you realize?

  •   Behavior. Has your child withdrawn from friends or family or lost interest in activities that she used to enjoy? Has she given away beloved possessions?

  •   Statements. Does your child talk about death or say things such as, “It would be better if I weren’t alive”? Does she talk about not wanting to be a burden to you?

     Of course, some statements might be just “wild talk.” (Job 6:3) But others could be cries for help. So do not dismiss anything your child says about wanting to die.

 If your child says she has considered taking her life, you could ask, “Have you thought about when or how you would do it?” Her answer will indicate how urgent the situation is.

 “As parents, we might not want to ask our children questions because we’re afraid of what they’ll say. But if what they say is what they feel, why not get it out in the open?”—Sandra.

 Bible principle: “A personʼs thoughts are like water in a deep well, but someone with insight can draw them out.”—Proverbs 20:5, Good News Translation.

 What if your child has suicidal thoughts?

  •   Patiently draw out your child. First, commend her for her honesty. Then you could say: “I want to understand what you have been going through. Tell me what’s been going on lately” or “Can you describe what it’s like for you to feel this way?”

     Listen patiently to your child’s replies. Resist any urge to trivialize her feelings or to dole out quick “solutions.”

     Bible principle: “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.”—James 1:19.

  •   Create a safety plan. Help your child identify and write down the following:

     Warning signs. Which circumstances or thinking patterns usually precede suicidal urges?

     Outlets. Which activities most effectively help her reduce stress and redirect her thinking?

     Resources. Does your child have a support network—people she can turn to when she needs help? This might include you, another trusted adult, a mental-health professional, or an agency that is trained to help people with suicidal thoughts.

    Create a safety plan

     Bible principle: “The plans of the diligent surely lead to success.”—Proverbs 21:5.

  •   Stay vigilant. Keep monitoring the situation, even after your child seems to be doing better.

     “When my son told me that he no longer had suicidal thoughts, I thought that his problem was over. That was a huge mistake. A person could face another crisis and return to suicidal thinking, and it can happen quite suddenly.”—Daniel.

     Help your teenager appreciate a vital truth about feelings: They are temporary. “They’re like the weather,” says the book The Whole-Brain Child. “Rain is real, and we’d be foolish to stand in a downpour and act as if it weren’t actually raining. But we’d be just as foolish to expect that the sun will never reappear.”

  •   Provide reassurance: Tell your child that you love her and that she can count on you for support. You could add, “I will do everything I can to help you get through this.”

     Bible principle: “A true friend shows love at all times and is a brother who is born for times of distress.”—Proverbs 17:17.

a Most people who suffer from depression do not commit suicide. However, a large number of those who have taken their life were suffering from depression at the time.

b Although we will refer to the child as a female, the principles discussed also apply to males.