If you have an adult child who is depressed and contemplating suicide, you are faced with a most difficult decision. You want to help and ensure your child’s health, but at the same time, you need to respect his boundaries. On the other hand, you may be at a complete loss what to do and how to handle the situation.
No matter the age of your offspring, he will also be your child and the instinct to safeguard and protect will never go away. Every parent wants the best for their child and to make sure they are happy and productive. If you find yourself and your grown child in this situation, here’s how you can help.
- Understand that suicide doesn’t just happen. It is a culmination of a process, usually triggered by an extremely stressful event, such as the loss of a job or the end or a primary relationship. There is a biochemical element to suicide, such as the reduction of serotonin levels in the brain.
- Watch out for the warning signs of suicide. If you notice your adult child is excessively sad, withdrawn or has a sudden change in personality or appearance, he may be contemplating. If he makes preparations, such as saying things like “if something happens to me, I want so and so to get this” or if he is suddenly giving away his possessions, be warned. If you know there is recent trauma in his life, there is a history of substance abuse or a family history of suicide, get help. If your child threatens suicide, take it seriously.
- Do not allow the person to isolate or be left alone. Try to be physically with your child at this moment. If you cannot be there immediately, find someone who can, such as a spouse or a best friend. You will need to have a team of loving family and friends to be on “suicide watch”.
- Take away access to weapons or things that can be used to self inflict pain. You can directly ask for any weapons, such as a gun he may own. Don’t give him access to sharp knives in the meantime.
- Talk to your child. If you don’t have good communication skills, non-verbal communication is helpful as well. Giving your child a hug or telling him you love him may be enough to remind him of his value to the world and be enough to keep him hanging in there. Whatever you do, don’t argue with your child. Show compassion.
- Get professional help. A pastor or counselor may help. In other cases, he may need to talk to a psychotherapist to help him deal with whatever issues that is compelling him to act this way.
- Take him to the hospital. He may need to be confined so he can be monitored. If he is diagnosed as clinically depressed, he may be given medication. If he refuses help, you will need intervention. This may be the hardest thing you’ll have to do, but it’s much better than having to bury your child.
- You can also call 1 800 SUICIDE or 1800-784-2455. Check out suicidehotlines.com for a list of toll free numbers in your area.
Approach the situation with compassion and love. It may be difficult to understand and you will be disappointed. Be available for your child to see him through this and get help as soon as possible.