For the Teen Contemplating Suicide and Looking for the Strength to Reach Out

I know you have had thoughts of killing yourself, and you are not sure why. You feel worthless, and you want to end it. The pain just won’t stop.

You want to tell someone, but you are afraid to. It’s hard to know what to say and to whom. If you do tell someone, will they reject you? Will they think you are joking? Will they laugh at you? If you tell your parents, will they freak out? If you do say something, then what exactly do you say?

I’m going to tell you something I wish I had the opportunity to tell my son. You see, he died by suicide. After his death, many months later, I realized he wanted to tell me in that last phone call, but he was too ashamed and instead ended his life. I will grieve that loss until the day I die. The world is not a better place without him, and I am devastated. I crave his skinny hugs and that squeaky voice he used when he greeted his dog.

I don’t want your parents to have to endure what I have. So I’m going to tell you what has worked for the dozens of young people who have reached out to me for help on how to tell their parents or another relative they have had thoughts of killing themselves.

I know you don’t really want to die. You just want to stop the pain, and you don’t see any other way out.  Your brain won’t let you believe you can feel better, but what is happening in your head is treatable.

1. Make the decision to tell someone.

This takes a lot of courage. I’m asking you, as a mom who has lost the most precious person in the world to her, to please make the decision to tell someone because it will hurt them to lose you. Asking for help is not a weakness, but a strength. It takes guts.

2. Decide who is the best person to tell.

It might not be a parent. It might be an aunt, a grandmother or a teacher. If you don’t tell a person you know, then text the crisis hotline or call the suicide hotline. Sometimes talking to them can help you get the nerve to tell your loved ones.

3. Figure out the best way to tell someone that works for you.

Be direct. Don’t use phrases like, “I want to hurt myself.” Say instead, “I have something very important to tell you. This is not a joke. Can I trust that you will listen? I have been thinking of killing myself, and I need help. I don’t understand these feelings.”

They may say things like, “You have so much to live for!” or “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Be patient with them because they don’t know what to say or do at first. It’s likely they may say something in a way that makes you feel like they don’t understand, and they don’t. It’s up to you to help them understand.

4. If you do not want to sit down face to face, write your mom or dad a message.

It might make you feel anxious to face them directly. It can be good for them to have an opportunity to think and figure out what to do. A letter or message (text, Facebook message or email) can be an effective means of communicating. Many of the people who have reached out to me preferred sending a message and talking face to face after their mom or dad gets the message.

If you are really feeling like dying by suicide right then, do not wait. Call or tell someone now! Don’t wait because we want to save your life.

Many parents tell me that once their child told them they have had thoughts of suicide, they are relieved there was a reason for their child’s behavior. Many times parents can’t figure out why their son or daughter was getting in trouble with police, driving recklessly or getting angry all the time. They are usually stunned, but they are also thankful and grateful. Most of them feel honored that their child trusted them with this information.

You need to say something because suicide could be the last thing on a parent’s mind. They might not think of asking you. This is not because they don’t care, but because it’s the last thing they think you would do. They don’t know how bad it hurts or how close you’ve been. You may have even attempted suicide before, and they have no clue.

If you leave us, then you take with you the gifts that we have not even realized you have. I want you to know you are worth it. The truth is, your parents would rather hear you ask for help than lose you.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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