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My Child Wants to Kill Herself! Now What?

"My child wants to kill herself!" is not a phrase any caregiver wants to utter out loud, let alone to anyone else.  

But, this situation is becoming all too familiar and can happen to anyone.  

It happened to us.  The most recent incident occured last week.

The key, as a caregiver, is to understand what that phrase means and to follow through by asking yourself one simple question.

Now what?

My Child Wants to Kill Herself! Now What?

My Child Wants to Kill Herself! Now What?

Princess has given me permission to share this very personal story. Even in her darkest hours, she has a desire to help others who may be struggling. 

Last Tuesday evening, marked 48 hours that Princess had been isolating herself in her room away from family and all aspects of life she could avoid.  

We made sure to check in on her, call her down to eat her meals, brought school work up to her room for her to complete, and kept tabs on when she went back and forth to the bathroom.  

No media devices are allowed in bedrooms in our home.

During this time, more than anything my husband and I wanted to respect that Princess needed time to herself. She needed time to work through whatever was going on in her head. Princess feels safest in her room and that's where she wanted to be.  

Life is HARD

After all, Princess is a hormonal eleven year old girl experiencing all that COVID-19 has done to ruin her life.  She does not have any opportunities to be independent from her family right now.

Princess has just lost her younger sister.  

We hope it's not a permanent thing and that Sunshine returns to us, but it feels permanent until Sunshine chooses to accept help and begin working on getting better. 

Princess was very close to her sister, so this process is extra hard on her.

It definitely doesn't help that Princess was forced to leave her home and live in a hotel for 5 weeks just a couple months ago due to safety reasons related to her sister, while we waited for Sunshine to be admitted into a second residential treatment center.

Any one of these three things is enough to send a typical eleven year old girl into a tailspin, but when you add Princess' Reactive Attachment Disorder to the mix and this being the time of year when Princess just can't bring herself to feel or see the light, life gets really HARD.

Everyone remembers the movie, Inside Out. At the end, Riley's emotions are gifted a new control center with a puberty button.  (If you haven't, I highly recommend watching the movie.) 

Life is HARD for every kid when all of that happens, but for kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder, who's brains have been damaged... 

When that new control center comes, the brain wreaks havoc and spins out of control.  

It has to relearn EVERYTHING. This means living through the trauma once again and then sorting out what all of it means in a new way according to how the brain now works.

It's around the age of twelve, that Reactive Attachment Disorder behaviors hit the fan, and often call for a lot of support and intervention.

A Breaking Point

We've tried multiple times to help Princess over the last few weeks, but most often it wasn't received well. 

And when it was, things only improved for a day or two before Princess decided that isolation was a safer option for herself. 

The problem is that when Princess isolates herself for too long, the dark becomes too big, and she can't see past it.  

After 48 hours, I couldn't take the isolation any longer.  Princess' brothers were concerned. 

Dinomite mentioned that he was worried that Princess might decide to be unsafe and self-harm, as this is something that has occurred in the past this time of year.

After a family meeting, it was determined that we could not let Princess isolate any longer. We needed to see where her head was at, and determine if she was okay.

Princess made it clear that she was not excited to chat with us, but at the same time she seemed calm.  So we asked her where she was at.  

The Confession

I've never met a child so skilled at screening what they say before they speak, to ensure that they don't say the wrong thing.  

If Princess doesn't want you to know about something, she's REALLY great at hiding it with her words.   Fortunately, mom knows all, and has many tactics after years of experience with this. Lol.

Out of concern, my husband and I explained to Princess that we were going to remove some items from her room for safety reasons.  Everyone in the family was worried about her right now and she didn't seem okay.

Items included all sharp objects, anything metal, plastic bags, necklaces, and anything that could be used to strangle herself, like shoe laces, bathrobe ties, etc.

We were also going to turn the door alarm on so we knew when she was entering and exiting her room, especially during the night hours.

To my surprise, Princess had no issues when we mentioned any of this.  I noticed a smile on her face and asked her about it.

After speaking round and round, Princess couldn't hold it back any longer.

"I want to kill myself."

Princess had been contemplating killing herself all day, formulating two plans as to how that might be accomplished. 

Before that she had been contemplating running away.

She was so relieved that we were removing unsafe items from her room. 

Our Princess didn't no how much longer she could go on feeling the way she did without acting on the thoughts in her head.

At this point, my husband, a retired mental health therapist and experienced emergency mental health screener went through a series of questions with Princess, to see where she was at, and if in fact she could be safe in the home.

If you do not have experience and training in these scenarios call your local dispatch center, the suicide prevention hotline, or your local emergency services board for help.  

Princess was more than willing to commit to a safety plan and seemed okay, despite her thoughts. 

We were so relieved.

If there's one thing we want to avoid at all costs, it's time in a hospital right now during COVID-19, and reliving any part of what happened with Sunshine over the past year, with Princess. But, if that's what she needed, we wouldn't have hesitated to do it in a heartbeat.

Princess happily helped us remove all unsafe items from her room. The relief that radiated from her is indescribable.

And though, she's still really struggling a week later, and we continue to be on suicide watch, Princess continues to follow the safety plan.  

We are now focused on getting her the help that she needs.

Depression doesn't just disappear once a child agrees to a safety plan.  

It it a constant battle that needs the love, support, and assistance of caregivers and professionals for an extensive period of time.

So Now What?

As with all mental health crises, where one has a desire to harm themselves or others, (and at times acts on it,) the confession and commitment to follow a safety plan is just the beginning.  

1. Find a Therapist

Whether you end up in the ER or not, a child's desire to kill herself means that she needs help.  The first step in obtaining this help is to find a therapist.  

As a caregiver, you will need a third party to help with the situation.  This is not something to try handling on your own, nor should you.

We had been mentioned going to a therapist for weeks. Princess downright refused to see one. 

But about a week before she wanted to kill herself, she came to us in tears, asking to see a therapist. She felt things were getting bad enough that she needed one.

Mental health therapy when done correctly by trained, certified, and experienced individuals is 100% healthy.  Seeing a therapist doesn't mean that you are bad or broken.  

Obtaining help from a mental health therapist or counselor is empowering.  

It is noble.  

It is brave.  

We have worked hard to teach our children these concepts.  

Getting help during a crisis is so much easier and effective when all parties are all in and willing. 

Do all you can to speak about obtaining help through mental health therapy in a positive light, so if the time comes and someone needs it, you have one less obstacle to work through.

Princess is now waiting for insurance to approve the therapy, and she's ready to go. 

We are thrilled that she is going to be working with the same therapist that Sunshine did at home.

2. Call your Child's Primary Care Physician (PCP)

A mental health crisis almost always includes a discussion about medication.  Whether it's ultimately agreed upon for use, or it's a last resort that you want to avoid, your child's pediatrician needs to be involved in the conversation from the beginning.

If your child's PCP doesn't feel comfortable treating mental health issues, she will refer you to a psychiatrist who can.

Whether you end up working with your PCP or a pediatric psychiatrist, it's important to remember that you need that third party to document what's working and what's not. If medication is recommended, it's coming from the doctor, not just Mom and Dad.

As parents we want to protect our children from everything.  We have a biased view on these matters one way or another.  A doctor's expertise and experience is necessary to help us make the calls that are needed in those tough moments. 

3. Continue with the Safety Plan

It can be so easy to see a few good days and think that your child is better after a mental health crisis, but trust me when I say that is not the case.  

Obtaining help from a therapist and doctor takes time.  

It's been one week since Princess said she wanted to kill herself. 

Our appointment with the doctor is two days away.

Our assessment to initiate therapy is three days away, with a two week waiting period next.

We have a long ways to go before we can even begin working with others to help our daughter.

Unsafe items will remain out of Princess' bedroom. The alarm will remain on her door.  Safety protocol has been put in place in other areas of the house.

This is not a punishment, this is purely about safety.

4. Do All You Can to Help Now

Once you've called the doctor and been referred to a therapist, now is the time to start working on things at home that are within your control as a caregiver.

Exercise and/or diet are a great place to start!  

We've been sure to get Princess outside for a couple of hours each day.  

Discussion about more healthy eating options is occurring.  

Sleep is being monitored. 

Princess is taking charge of making sure she's getting enough rest, drinking enough water etc.

The Important Things to Remember

It is so important to understand that depression is not the child's fault. 

Depression is not something they asked for, nor is it something they can stop from happening.

Those with depression often feel that others would be much better without them.  

They often feel that no matter what, they can't do anything right.

Though your child may not believe you in the moment, be sure to tell her just how important she is, how much she is loved, and how you are willing to support her through what she's experiencing in every way you can.  

Then follow through.

I know Princess will get through these hard times.  Though this may be something that she struggles with for an extended period of time, with support from a loving family, she can feel better. Your child can too.

For those who would like to follow Princess' journey or receive more support for mental health situations regarding children, be sure to sign up for our FREE newsletter by clicking the link below.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.

How to Create and Use an Emotional Regulation Chart for Kids Mood Disorder Tips: How to Help a Child Through Manic and Depressive Episodes Our Pediatric Mental Health Crisis Must Have Safety Resources When Parenting a Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder A Safety Plan for Mental Health Wha I'd Wish I'd Known About My Child's Mood Disorder Med Changes

My Child Wants to Kill Herself! Now What?

1 comment:

  1. I am a regular follower of your blog. Somehow, I had missed this post. So when I stumbled on this just one week after my 13 year old went to her first therapy appointment, it rang true for me. She had been having trouble motivating herself to do much, especially getting out of bed and staying off electronics. She requested seeing a therapist again (se saw someone at age 7-8 for anxiety) a couple weeks ago. She was able to explain to me that she was really trying and that no matter how much we took away from her or promised to give her (including family activities) she just didn't think she could do it. I had followed up and scheduled an appointment. At the intake meeting, I couldn't really explain why we were there, but your blog reminded me that I was there to take care of my child by protecting her from herself because she didn't feel capable of doing it. Thank you (again) for sharing your families' journey. Cindy