Identifying And Helping A Suicidal Child

Identifying And Helping A Suicidal Child

Every 90 minutes in America, a young person kills himself. One-third of all teenagers in the United States say they have considered suicide – 15% have thought about it seriously and 6% have actually tried to kill themselves, according to a Gallup Poll.  Here are some potential warning signs.
  1. Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  2. Withdrawal from friends and family activities
  3. Violent or rebellious behavior (i.e. running away)
  4. Drug or alcohol abuse
  5. Changes in hygiene
  6. Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, decline in schoolwork
  7. Frequent stomachaches, headaches, and fatigue
  8. Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  9. Inability to accept praise
  10. Feeling “rotten inside”
  11. Giving away favorite possessions
  12. Verbal hints such as, “I won’t see you again.”

What should you do if you see these signs?

Pray that the Lord Jesus keep them safe in his care, protecting him or her from the attacks of the devil.

If your young person has attempted, seriously contemplated, or talked about committing suicide, do not take it lightly. Get them professional help immediately.

Never underestimate the seriousness of a threat or suggested harm to themselves. Really listen to your child. Being an empathetic listener will be a great blessing to your child.

Simply be there for them, which can often diffuse a young person’s sense of being alone in their pain. Your presence and reassurance is vitally important.  Make sure you are as available as possible for them.

Remind them of who they are in Christ.  Whatever it is that is making them depressed, point them to the worth they have in being God’s specifically designed creation, his holy and forgiven child through Jesus, a member of God’s own family and an heir of heaven, and someone for whom God has a plan in life that will bring him glory and serve for their spiritual and eternal good.

Give them hope that God will help them get through this as he has helped his people overcome all kinds of adversity all through history.  Remind them that they are in the care of their Good Shepherd who will lead them safely through “the valley of the shadow of death” so that they will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)  Remind them that they can say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13) and “the Lord will rescue them from every evil attack and bring them safely to his heavenly kingdom.” (2 Timothy 4:18)  Remind them that God and his promises are greater than our troubles or feelings.

Teach them good coping skills.  Teach them how Christians cope with hardships, disappointment, or despair:  We cling to Christ in faith, we turn to his Word (to weigh our feelings or reasoning against the truth, to find comfort, hope, strength, guidance in Christ, etc.), we place our anxieties on God and cast our burdens on him in prayer, we seek the comfort and guidance of fellow believers (instead of isolating), we seek help from professionals (counselors, doctors, pastors, etc.) to whom God has given skill and wisdom to help us.

Follow this link to download a helpful 100 page book on coping with depression written by an LCMS pastor, David Prieskorn: http://lcms.org/page.aspx?pid=726&DocID=721.

This link to a WELS Christian Family Solutions  suicide blog is also helpful:   http://www.christianfamilysolutions.org/blogs/lets-talk-about-suicide.