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What to Say to a Suicidal Teen

How to Talk to a Teen Threatening Suicide

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Updated July 27, 2012

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Quick Links: Troubled Teens | Quiz: Is Your Teen At-Risk?

Do you ever wonder what you'd say to your teen during a crisis in which they threatened to take their own life?

The threat of teen suicide is a time when knowledge can change how things turn out. Here's information to help you know what to say in dealing with this delicate and dangerous situation:

Teen Suicide - The Bottom Line

Here's what you need to know if your teen is threatening to commit suicide.

  • There is a part of your teen that doesn't really want to die.
  • Suicide in teens is about feeling utterly hopeless, out of control and unable to cope. The pain they are experiencing is intense and substantial, and in this moment suicide seems the only way out.
  • A suicidal teen is trying to stop their emotional pain. They are tired of hurting and tired of feeling no one understands what they are going through.

What to Say to a Suicidal Teen

In order to identify what your teen is feeling that has led them to consider suicide try to get them to talk and share their distress with you. Use some of these questions to get your teen talking:

  • Encourage your teen to describe what they are feeling. Example: "I had no idea things were so bad for you, talk to me about what's going on."
  • Ask your teen share whether a specific incident led to this decision. Example: "What happened? I want to know more, it might help to talk about it."
  • Be careful not to offer advice that may be perceived as empty or unhelpful, such as " You should appreciate all you have in life," or "I think you're overreacting."
  • Although it may be difficult, at this point accept whatever your teen says, without verbalizing judgment or disagreeing with their statements or feelings.
  • Ask if your teen has a specific plan for suicide - the more specific the plan, the higher the risk.

If you now have a better idea of how your teen is feeling and what has led up to this, it will be easier to know what to say to help keep your teen safe. Use the suggestions that best fit you, your teen and the situation:

  • Let your know teen know you understand how miserable they are feeling. Example: "It sounds like you've given up," or "I think you feel there's no way out."
  • Remind your teen of your unconditional love for them.
  • Let your teen know you are deeply concerned about them.
  • As compassionately as possible say to your teen, "I do not want you to hurt yourself and I will do everything possible to keep you from committing suicide."
  • Gently point out that suicide is a not the only solution. Example: "I know there are options that could help, I'd like you to at least try them."
  • Promise to be there for your teen and to do whatever it takes to get them through this. Example: "You are not alone, I am here to help you now that I understand how bad things really are for you."

Other Important Considerations

  • Remove all dangerous implements or substances from the immediate area.
  • Stay with your teen - make sure they aren't left alone during this crisis.
  • Read our article: How to Get Help if Your Teen is Suicidal

Suicide is an extreme but not uncommon response to teen problems. Take steps to get your teen immediate professional help to keep them safe and to deal with the underlying issues that are causing them to feel this way.

Quick Links: Troubled Teens | Quiz: Is Your Teen At-Risk?

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