Safeguard your home.
If you haven’t taken the steps to do this and you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, now is certainly the time. But because easy access to lethal means of suicide is a risk factor in and of itself, it’s a good idea to make sure your home is safeguarded no matter what, not just when you’re worried.
Tellone recommends removing any firearms from your home completely. “I’ve heard too many stories from parents about how their gun was locked up and their children got to it anyway,” she says. “Kids will find a way.”
The same goes for any medication that someone might be able to use to overdose. Pay attention to the seemingly harmless medications you buy in bulk, too, such as over-the-counter pain relievers.
Only you know what might be dangerous in your home, but take the time to think about it and do what you can to keep your child safe.
Contact a crisis resource if need be.
If you’re worried that your child is at risk of hurting themself, resources like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) and the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741-741) can help diffuse the situation and offer advice. You can call or text yourself, encourage them to call or text, or do it together.
8. Keep in mind that this isn’t about you.
It’s common for parents of children who deal with suicidal ideation to question what they could’ve done better or differently or to wonder what else is going on with their child that they don’t know about. You might find yourself asking, What did I do? Is this my fault?
According to Emanuele, this line of thinking is too simplified. “There are a lot of factors that go into why people start to think about ending their life, and it may not just be one thing,” she says.
Even if your kid does tell you that you’ve screwed up somehow or that you’ve influenced how they currently feel, it’s crucial to remember that you’re allowed to make mistakes. “Parents aren’t perfect,” says Emanuele. “But self-blame is actually distracting from the problem at hand. Your kid needs help, and that’s your focus.”
That said, it’s still important that you have your own outlets to explore those feelings. It’s not a conversation you should be having with your teen, at least not at this stage when your focus should be on getting them the help they need. “If you need help dealing with the distress you’re feeling, get therapy yourself or turn to family or friends for support,” says Emanuele. (As long as you trust that said family and friends won’t go rogue and talk to your child in a stigmatizing or unhelpful way.) “Have others support you in supporting your child.”
9. Lastly, here are some resources for your child and yourself.
It’s good to equip your kid with tools that can help, especially if you’re worried that they won’t tell you when they need help. But don’t be afraid to utilize resources too. While your child might be the one who is suffering, it’s important to look after your own mental health—both for your own sake and so you can be an effective support system for them.