My child might be suicidal, what can I do? Worried sick about my daughter, I feared she was in danger of ending her life. I struggled to face the possibility or even say the word suicide. Tormented day and night, I dreaded getting that horrific phone call.
Can you relate? Have you agonized over how to keep your child or other loved one safe from their suicidal ideations? What choices do you have other than locking them in a room and keeping an around the clock vigil? No one can do that indefinitely. It’s not humanly possible, so what can we do?
Dear desperate parent, I’ve been in your shoes. I know the agony. I wouldn’t wish that kind of misery on anyone.
There is something you can do! Today’s post is Part 2 in a series on suicide prevention. I want you to know about QPR, an effective method developed by Dr. Paul Quinnett at the QPR Institute: qprinstitute.com I learned about this strategy a few years ago when I attended one of their workshops.
Think of QPR like CPR. Relax. You’re not the one responsible for saving the person in question; you’re simply keeping them alive until trained, professional help can be obtained.
Please read Part 1 (posted on 9/20/21) to familiarize yourself with the first step, Question.
In summary, QPR is an acrostic for: Question, Persuade, Refer. Today, let’s look at the Persuade step. [You can read more about this life-saving technique on QPR Institute’s website.]
The Persuade step begins with the simple, but powerful act of listening.
- Avoid offering advice. Instead, excel in the art of listening.
- A good listener can save a life.
- Listening well is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone who’s suicidal.
5 Ways to be a good listener:
- Give your full attention.
- Don’t interrupt. Let them talk.
- Don’t be in a hurry. Take your time.
- Don’t make judgments or condemn. Be accepting.
- Tame your own fears so you can focus on the other person.
It’s Not Easy
First, ask the “S” question (the Q step explained in Part 1), Are you thinking about killing yourself?
Then, listen for the problem(s) they believe their death would solve. Confirm your guesses and suspicions with follow-up questions. If they nod their head or say yes, then, as unlikely as it may seem, you’ve helped them to find a way to live.
Yes, it can be that simple!
The goal of the Persuasion is to hear confirmation of your suspicions, then get help.
A yes response to any of the following questions is your next step to keep the person alive:
- Will you go with me to see a counselor? (or priest, rabbi, school counselor, school nurse, psychologist, or any professional they’re will agree to).
- Will you let me help you make an appointment?
- Will you promise me not to kill yourself, but to stay alive, until we can get you some help?
Often, a suicidal individual won’t follow through because they feel too helpless and hopeless. They literally don’t have the emotional strength. This is why it’s important to get the person to agree to go on living.
Research shows that simply making the promise not to hurt or kill oneself, but to go on living, tends to bring relief and the fulfillment of that promise. Dr. Quinnett says the response is almost always yes. How encouraging for us to hear.
The power of the relationship you have with your son or daughter (or whoever the person might be) is key.
What if they say no?
There’s still something you can do. Refusal doesn’t mean QPR failed. Now you know they’re definitely in danger and you can take action. As of today, the laws of our country say it’s not allowed for an individual to die by suicide. Ending your own life is not an acceptable solution for life’s problems. Provisions have been made to help keep suicidal people alive and protect them from themselves.
If you’re concerned your child is at risk–they said yes, they want to die, they have a plan and the means to carry out their plan–then please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Anyone can call, any day of the year, any time, including holidays. If you sense they’re in imminent danger, then call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room if they’re willing to cooperate.
Counselors urge not promising to keep their intentions a secret. You are not obligated to do that. They need immediate help.
In my next post on Monday, September 27th, I’ll explain the third and final step, Refer.
Heavenly Father, please comfort every person who reads this, who cares about someone who’s in danger of suicide, especially if it’s their precious son or daughter. Give them courage to ask the “S” question and engage in the persuade process. Use them to bring relief. Breathe life and strength into their own souls as well. Stay close while they endure the most difficult days of their lives. Thank you for how much You care about all your children–every one of them. In the life-giving name of your Son Jesus. Amen.
I find hope in the holy Scriptures. This verse is one I’ve turned to many in times of distress:
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 42:5).
** Have you ever tried the QPR steps? Please help someone else by sharing your experience. How did it go? Did it help?