I get hundreds of messages and comments from children, teens, and young adults monthly about how parents respond to, “Mom/Dad, I have been having thoughts of suicide.” When they get a response like some of the ones below, I then advise these kids to tell a teacher or a school counselor.
Sometimes a parent isn’t the best person to tell.
For one it’s hard for a parent to imagine life would be so bad for our child that they’d resort to killing themselves. From our point of view, their lives look pretty good. So sometimes we dismiss their pain as unimportant or something they’ll “get over.” After all, we got over stuff, didn’t we? Unless we have lived experience, we just don’t understand the nature of suicidal thinking, how it can come in like a lightning bolt, and take a brain hostage.
So I think it’s important to share responses I hear from pre-teens, teens, and young adults when they tell their parents about their dark thoughts.
If your child does tell you, your response should be, “I am so sorry. Tell me more. I am here to help in any way I can but right now I’m going to shut up and listen to what you have to say.” Then do more listening and no lecturing.
Many parents respond appropriately but some do not. So here are some of the responses these kids report from parents and some of the reasons they fear telling a parent. These comments are from kids in the U.S., Australia, Canada, the UK, Germany, India, Malaysia, South Africa, and more. They are from this site, my YouTube channel, and an article I wrote on “The Mighty.”
“Telling my mom just made things worse. She told me to ‘quit threatening her with that.’”
“I told my dad and he said I should Just pray on it.”
“Hi I really feel Iike telling my mom because we are so close but the last time I told her she got mad and said that killing yourself Is for cowards”
“My mom said ,’Suicide is selfish. You need to toughen up.’”
“My dad said, ‘How could you think of suicide? You are so lucky and have so much.’”
“I told my mom and sister and they both said I was drama queen.”
“My mom said I was just trying to get attention.”
“When I told my mum she said I am always thinking of myself.”
“My dad told me I should be happy. What do I do?”
“I’m scared of being judged and yelled at. What can I do?”
“I love my parents alot and I also don’t want to tell them about my worries because they are already stressed out with alot of other things…”.
“If I tell my parents. They will look at me differently. They probably won’t be proud of me and right now and that’s all I have got.”
“I have been thinking about suicide for a while, and my parents think that every time I cry, I’m faking it. “
“I also am suicidal but don’t know how to tell my mom I’m scared and ashamed of myself….”
“im 15 and i feel depressed all the time, i cry a lot, and i haven’t told her that i have sucicidal thoughts but she knows i feel depressed and she just yells at me/ gets mad at me for it. she says that i’m exhausting to be around.”
And finally one from a mom. “I would just like to say thank you. Because of you, my daughter was brave enough to tell me her thoughts! Thanks for your work!”
These parents are not “bad people” but probably just naive and don’t really know what to say or how to fix the issue. It seems insurmountable and most really do think the kid “will get over it.” But seeing kids’ responses gives all of us a different perspective from their point of view and allows us to see and understand their fears about telling. Because we always wonder afterward and feel devastating regret and guilt.
I first wanted to kill myself when i was 11 and that’s the first time I self harmed as well. My mom doesn’t believe in mental illness and thinks it’s a choice. The only reason she said she would stop someone from killing themselves is because it’ll inconvenience her if it happened in front of her. I never felt supported in important things, only what benefited the ‘future’ I ruined in my depressed period. I can’t feel emotions right, I can’t see faces the same because whenever my mom makes a grimace when she’s mad it looks so disgusted cuz she used to yell a lot and sometimes hit me in an argument. Her type of love is ‘tough love’ and she thinks the best motivation is making someone feel bad so they will ‘revenge’ their pride by completing a goal. Some of my friends shared same experiences and it’s considered ‘normal’. Whenever I was bullied I should have sucked it up or fight back because no one would do it for me when I grow up, I was 5 at the time. I’m sorry I used you for ranting and I’m sure you have your own problems but can you please tell me is this normal? I was confused for 3 years now and I’m 13. (See Alex’s quote here)
- NAMI Family Group Support Locator
- Free eBook- 9 Ways to Help Your Kids Build Resilience (12 pages)
- Your child said he is suicidal: Say this, not that (quick easy guide)
- How one teen described his suicidal episode
- So why do kids not tell parents they are suicidal? Quotes from real kids
- 6 reasons why kids don’t tell you they want to die
- He promised not to attempt suicide again
- ‘My son has admitted he is suicidal. What do I do now?’
- They said they’re thinking of suicide? What now?
- Living in fear of the next crisis
- To those who think, ‘I’m not qualified to talk to someone who is suicidal’
- A friend posted a message online that sounds suicidal. What do you do or say?
- Suicide Resources Page