Call or text a crisis line
During a crisis or when someone can’t calm down, professionals at Colorado Crisis Services can help you evaluate your child and provide tips for soothing them. If they deem that you need emergency attention, they can help you get it.
“If you’re not sure what to do, always feel free to call the crisis line,” Dru says. “They’ll walk you through it and help you find the resources you need.”
Talk about it with your child
We encourage parents and caregivers to check in with their child regularly. Ask them how they are feeling, listen without offering advice, and repeat back to them what you heard so they know you are listening. The goal is to provide support and find out whether they are a risk to themselves or others so you can determine what action to take. If they don’t address thoughts of wanting to die or self-harm, ask them directly. While some people worry that they might plant the suggestion of suicide by asking, that’s not the case, say Dru and Dr. Wood. By asking them, you will signal that you care and create open lines of communication.
Learn how to talk to kids about suicide.
Increase mental healthcare
If your child is not already under the care of a mental health professional, find help as soon as possible. You can also contact their pediatrician.
If your child is in therapy, talk with their therapist or psychiatrist about increasing their weekly sessions and explore more intensive treatment options such as intensive outpatient programs (IOP) or partial hospitalization (PHP) programs, sometimes referred to as day treatment.
Show them you care
Increase support at home and with loved ones. During times of crisis, it’s important to ramp up every type of support, including time with loved ones from grandparents to close friends. Dr. Wood says that even simple, passive things, like watching a TV show or movie together, can be helpful. “Activities that don’t involve talking but do increase the time your family is together can help – and they make it easier to monitor your child’s safety at the same time.”
Keep close watch on your child and prepare for next time
Save crisis lines as contacts in your cell phone. If your child has a phone, make sure the crisis line is saved in their phone so they can call (or text), too.
If a school counselor is involved, Dru recommends being in touch and requesting they check in with your child periodically.
Another thing parents and caregivers can do to monitor children who are struggling and be vigilant for signs of escalation is to install parental control apps on their phones. These can flag dangerous words or phrases used in communication and web searches (suicide, for example). One such app is Bark.
Safety proof your home
When children and teenagers are distressed or in crisis, they can become highly impulsive, and the emotions they experience can be very intense. (Being emotional and impulsive is a normal part of development and adolescence, and experiencing these things isn’t “bad” or “unusual.”)
So, even if you don’t think your child is at high risk of harming themselves, experts recommend that you look around your home and safety proof it. This includes locking up firearms, securing medications (both over-the-counter and prescription) and safely storing cleaning supplies. By removing or restricting access to potentially dangerous items, you lower the risk of self-harm or suicide and help keep your child safe.