While teenagers can be impulsive and blurt things out that they don’t mean to say or intend to do, if your teen is threatening suicide, this is definitely something that will get your attention and should hold your attention. Whether your teen has the intent to follow through with an attempt or not, the threat of suicide is something that should be taken very seriously. Teens who threaten suicide are quite often in an immense amount of mental and emotional pain and are in need of an intervention to help them and to keep them safe.
It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed and highly emotional as you try to navigate this stage with your teen. If your teen keeps threatening suicide, what should your next steps be?
First steps, keeping your teen safe
Whether your teen’s comment about suicide was said in a flippant off-hand manner or said during an emotional outburst, you should take it as a serious threat. For several reasons, teens are at an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and ideation, and the rate of suicides is highest amongst teens. If your teen has been struggling with depression or other mental health concerns, it could be that he’s feeling overwhelmed and sees this as the only way for him to put a stop to the things that he’s feeling.
The first step that you should take should be to ensure that your teenager is physically safe. Is he in a position to gain access to anything that he could take or use to harm himself? If you suspect or see signs that he’s harmed himself, don’t hesitate to get help from emergency services. Parents can often feel like it’s best not to get the police or emergency room personnel involved in family concerns, but in these situations, the more help your teen has, the better the situation will be.
Calling a suicide prevention hotline may be an option for your teen while you work to get him additional help. These hotlines will connect people who are struggling with a crisis counselor who can help to de-escalate the situation with your teen. This is not a fix for the situation, but it is a good way to help calm a situation while you’re working with counselors or mental wellness facilities to get your teen the help he needs.
Once you’re certain that your teen is physically safe, you can follow a few next steps to help continue keeping him safe while he begins the process of healing. The next steps may look different for each family and their situation. However, once you’ve made sure your teen is physically safe, the next step for most is to get their teen into a therapeutic program. Outpatient therapy is a first step for many when there is a mental health concern, but it’s not always the best choice for a teen who is in crisis. Inpatient programs, whether short-term or longer-term, can provide teens with a safe and structured focused environment as they work through their concerns.
Can you do anything to prevent teen suicide threats?
Parents often feel a fair amount of guilt when their children and teens are struggling. If a teen’s struggles have progressed to the point of talking about suicide, the guilt may be pretty overwhelming for parents. Could you have done anything to help your teen before he got to this point? Did you miss signs of his struggles before he started threatening suicide?
In truth, teens can be pretty secretive. Even in an age of overcommunication and social media. If your teen doesn’t want you to know about something going on in his life, he will do his utmost to hide it.
Some of the things that may be triggering his mental health issues could include:
- Being bullied at school or being bullied online through social media or even a video game he plays.
- Feeling overwhelmed with the work he has to do at school.
- Struggles with friendships or romantic relationships.
- Problems with siblings, parents, and other members of the family.
- A recent move or big change within the family.
Parents are often surprised when their teen threatens suicide, but studies have shown that the number of teens who struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide are much higher than parents may be aware of.
While you may not be able to prevent some of the situations that have led to his current mental health situation, there are other steps that you can take to help your teen develop the coping skills that he needs.
Just how seriously should you take repeated teen suicide threats?
You know that you should intervene and get your teen physically safe and into a mental health treatment program. But what should you do if your teen keeps threatening to harm himself? What if he’s already self-harming? It’s easy to see how anyone could get to the point of thinking that threats to do further harm to himself are empty and he won’t follow through on any of it. After all, self-harming does not always lead to a suicide attempt. Your teen may be following self-harm patterns and showing emotional outbursts frequently.
Don’t allow yourself to fall into your own pattern of accepting this as your new norm. If your teen is repeatedly threatening to harm himself, this should indicate that his current therapy programs are not helping him to cope. He also hasn’t yet been able to address the underlying concerns in a way that will allow him to cope with them. Your teen will need a more intensive program that can help him to address the issues he’s struggling with and learn to develop those healthy coping strategies that will help him to face these and other issues.
If your teen talks about suicide, here are a few things that you could say and do to help him.
- Let him know that you love him without condition and will listen to anything that he needs to talk about. Teens often feel shame about some of the things that they are struggling with. Knowing their parents will listen and won’t judge can help them open up.
- If he is facing issues at school, step in and work with school counselors and teachers to get him the help that he needs. If he is being bullied by other students and the school won’t intervene, you may need to escalate the issue and temporarily pull him from school to consider a homeschool program.
- Ensure that everyone else in the home understands that your teen is struggling. This is not an attention grab but a serious concern that needs to be handled with care. Siblings may often be antagonistic with one another. But these normal behaviors can potentially further push the mental health of a struggling teen.
Finding your teen the right type of treatment is an important part of helping him learn how to heal and cope.
Long-term treatment options for teens
Outpatient therapy, once or twice a week, can be very effective for many types of mental health struggles. Many teens and adults find that therapy can help them work through their concerns and learn those all-important coping strategies. Teens who are suicidal and facing serious struggles, however, tend to do better when they’re in a more intensive treatment program. You may not be ready to send your teen to an inpatient facility like a residential treatment center. If you’re not ready for inpatient treatment options, there are outpatient facilities that will allow your teen to benefit from the available therapeutic treatments during the day and return home in the evenings.
The key is that your teen needs to be in a long-term treatment program that will address his needs as an individual. The issues that have led to your teen’s suicide threats are not ones that will go away overnight. He needs the right type of treatment and help. At HelpYourTeenNow, we can connect parents with the resources they need to help their teens in crisis. Call to find out your next best steps.