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why don't kids tell someone they are suicidal

So why do kids not tell parents they are suicidal? Quotes from real kids.

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.

From Alex:

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)

Related Articles:

responses from parents to a confession of suicide from a child

Published by

AnneMoss Rogers

AnneMoss Rogers is a mental health and suicide education expert, mental health speaker, suicide prevention trainer and consultant. She is author of the Book, Diary of a Broken Mind and co-author of Emotionally Naked: A Teacher's Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk with Kim O'Brien PhD, LICSW. She raised two boys, Richard and Charles, and lost her younger son, Charles to addiction and suicide on June 5, 2015. She is a motivational speaker who empowers by educating and provides life saving strategies and emotionally healthy coping skills. As talented and funny as Charles was, letting other people know they matter was his greatest gift. And now that's the legacy she carries forward in her son's memory. Mental Health Speakers Website.

8 thoughts on “So why do kids not tell parents they are suicidal? Quotes from real kids.”

  1. This helped me understand my parents more. I just told them I was on the edge of killing myself for 5 years… their first response was to make me feel guilty that I was going to do this to them. I feel guilty enough, that’s why I didn’t do it in the first place. I understand better now I think. They’re humans. They don’t always have the right answers. Perspective is the key. I’m bookmarking this article.

    1. Oh my gosh I’m so thankful and grateful for your comment, Hermione. It’s hard to believe that you say it directly and they still just don’t believe it. I tell a lot of kids to go to their school counselor. Having an adult help parents understand can sometimes help. And the school counselors know the next steps and can guide that process. Then you get the support, the safety plan etc.

      I speak to parents and I show them this slide and coach them on how to respond appropriately. The absolute hardest is when they come in my grief group and tell me their child killed himself and had been saying it for years and they never thought they were serious. That one is so heartbreaking.

  2. I appreciate the work you do. I’m twenty and I’ve been dealing with suicidal thoughts for as long as I can remember, but it has gotten quite worse these past few years. It’s not something I can discuss with my family because the last time the topic popped up, it didn’t go too well. I was around eighteen and had issues with my parents. We had a heated argument (it was more one sided– from them). I told them to stop and that they’re the reason why I think of suicide (I had a history of self-injury, which they didn’t react well too either). Anyways, my father aggressively told me to go ahead with it. Now every time I get suicidal thoughts, I think of that moment, and it pushes me a little further. In fact, I had a breakdown almost a year ago, got on the freeway, and once my car was to pass 100 mph, I was going to steer it into the median. During that drive, all I could think of were my parents’ words. Unfortunately, I realized my car cannot reach those high speeds and so I couldn’t follow through. Nowadays, I have been looking into other methods and whether my religion can justify it (I’d argue that religion is the only reason I’ve lasted this far).
    In conclusion, I’d assume some children wouldn’t want to tell their parents out of fear that it’ll only push them further into their suicidal ideation. I apologize for the long comment, I didn’t mean for it to be this long. Thank you again.

    1. Cara- Thank you so much for your perspective on this. It is after all, what I am looking to capture and teach, so your point of view is critical.

      I am so sorry you have struggled with this and been in danger while in suicidal thought. I assume that is a very scary place to be. That’s how I felt reading it so let me know if it was and is scary for you to feel this way.

      Have you been able to share how you feel with another trusted adult (not your parents)? Would you be willing to seek help elsewhere? Because I think your parents just are not in the mindset to understand. I explain self harm and why to parents and then they get it but when they are dealing with it they tend to not understand the why and they often fail to try and learn more. And then they often try to yell or punish their loved one out of self harm which typically drives that person to more self harm.

      I know your dad blurted this out due to frustration and if you died by suicide it would play in his head over and over and probably already is. I am going to bet he regrets saying it. But in some part of the reptilian parent brain they often think “go ahead and do it” will force you into recovery. It’s weaponizing our love but parents don’t see it that way.

      So back to you and the fact that the thoought repeats itself at just the wrong time like any negative thought does when you are stressed. Your brain can be re-trained, medication might help but what you are describing is treatable.

      Let me know what you think. I am listening.

  3. Dear Anne

    Thank you so much for doing these important work!! Yes, we, parents, love our child more than anything, and yet, we are so ignorant of suicidal symptoms, thoughts, and behaviors; we never ever thought our precious child could die from Suicide; so wish I could have known… I thought I would have been able to save my precious child from this permanent ending of her precious beautiful young life if I had known some risk factors and known how to really genuinely communicate with my only child, and how to drop everything to listen to her thoughts and emotions deep in her heart… so so so wish……I never ever had any clue that this could be a remote possibility…💔😭😭💔

  4. I will never forget when Brandon told me he had thought about suicide..I think he was in 5th grade..I sat there dumbfounded and didn’t know how to respond. He wouldn’t/couldn’t expound on it but I gave him a big hug, told him I loved him and we went upstairs for the night. His Dad traveled alot and we had been sitting at the kitchen table when that was dumped in my lap. The next day I got the name of someone for him to go talk to and we went but by that time he had stuffed it so deep all he told the counselor was ‘I’m fine’…I’m fine became his mantra, although all it did was hide the pain he was feeling that substance abuse came to erase…Anne, you are tackling a difficult subject but one that parents need to know exists and that it may effect them..please keep reaching out to our 4th, 5th 6th graders…they are so fragile and if we give them the tools to learn how to ask for help and to verbalize their feelings perhaps we can lose one less child to substance abuse/addiction or suicide…because when you talk to those parents in the rooms you will hear that our children almost always have started down that road by the age of 12.

    1. They reach out to me as early as nine years old. It’s so shocking. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Boys espcially lock it all up. I know my son did. But he let it all out in his lyrics which is why I included them in my book.

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