What to Say and What NOT to Say to a Suicidal Child or Teen

Posted on October 22, 2013, in Suicide

What to say to a suicidal child or teen:

“I didn't know how serious things had gotten. Let’s talk about it.”

“It sounds as if you are feeling totally hopeless. I understand how you can feel like ending it all. Have you told anyone else? We’ve got to talk about this.”

“I don’t want you to do anything to hurt yourself. I don’t know how we can change the feeling, but there are things we can do to help.” (If you cannot help, find out who can help and contact them immediately!)

“I can’t watch you 24 hours a day. If you want to die, you’ll find a way, but I don’t want you to, and I will do anything to prevent you from killing yourself.”

“I want to hear all that has been happening. I’ve got time.”

What NOT to say to a suicidal child or teen:

DO NOT SAY, “You’ll get over it. Things will be better tomorrow.”
Things may not be better tomorrow. You cannot promise this as it leaves you open to becoming just another one of those who don’t understand. It is also minimizing the seriousness of the child’s feelings and will be perceived as a rejection.

DO NOT SAY, “You have your whole life ahead of you.”

DO NOT SAY, “If you think things are rough now, wait until you’re an adult and have to work for a living.”

These comments minimize the suicidal person’s feelings, while at the same time express the attitude “Don’t bother me now,” as if the child is a burden. In short, do not moralize or minimize. Do not promise anything that cannot be delivered. Do not criticize, ridicule, or infer that the person is crazy. Don’t ignore and NEVER SAY, “Go ahead, do it.”

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