My child might be suicidal, what can I do? Worried sick about my daughter, this was the question that tormented me. I feared she was in danger of ending her life. I struggled to face the possibility or even say the word suicide. Terrified 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 to lessen the chance of a suicide. 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 last Thursday Sept. 18th to familiarize yourself with the first step, Question. To briefly summarize, the “S” question is: “Are you thinking of ending your life?” If they say yes, “Do you have a plan?” If yes again, then ask, “Do you have the means to carry out your plan?”
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 on Sept. 18th), 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, this step 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 988, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or text 741741. Anyone can call, any day of the year, any time, including holidays to speak with a trained counselor. You can also take them to the nearest emergency room for an assessment, but if they refuse to cooperate and you fear for their safety, counselors at the 988 number will guide you or you can call 911 for transport to the nearest hospital. Your goal is to keep them alive until they can get the help they need.
Counselors urge not promising to keep their intentions a secret. You are not obligated to do that. They need immediate assistance to stay alive.
In my next post on Monday, September 25th, I’ll explain the third and final step of QPR, Refer.
Let’s Pray: 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 often in my 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 NIV).
** Have you ever tried the QPR steps? Please help someone else by sharing your experience. How did it go? Did it help?
** Did you miss Part 1? You will find it in my post on Sept. 18th.
Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicidee by Kay Redfield Jamison, a renowned clinical psychologist. She writes from personal experience as one who lives with bipolar disorder and has wrestled with suicidal ideation many times during her adult life.
Grieving a Suicide by Albert Hsu
Finding Your Way After the Suicide of Someone You Love by Biebel/Foster
No Time to Say Goodbye by Carla Fine
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (www.afsp.org) – offers support groups
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (www. nami.org)
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) Crisis Textline 741741
988 The new mental health hotline (replaces 911 for a mental health or subtance abuse crisis)
American Association of Suicidology – many resources for help