I will never forget the day that I got “the call” from school. His teacher called to tell me that he had been saying some disturbing things at school, and as a team they felt it had reached a more serious level and that he needed help. Not only was he saying he was worthless, that he didn’t want to live and wanted to kill himself, he was going into detail about how he would actually carry this out. He was 10 years old. My 10 year old son is suicidal.
The following is not a list of answers, or suggestions. It isn’t a “how to” guide to handle this type of situation or how to help your child. This is just my story, with my feelings and my experiences. There is too much stigma around mental health, and we do not share these stories openly enough. I hope that in sharing my story you will know that you are not alone. We are not alone. We need to support each other.
My son is my pride and joy, and at a young age we knew that he was unique. By the time he was in preschool he had been labeled as Special Education, with emotional and behavioral support as being his number one need. By age 6 we had seen an outside therapist who had diagnosed him with depression and anxiety. At age 8 we had him on anti-depressants. In third grade he had spoken of not wanting to be on the earth, or that he was worthless. At this age he had spoken of killing himself one time, with a paperclip. He started therapy.
He was doing so well the summer before 5th grade, his therapist had graduated him, and there was talk of taking him off his medication. After a decrease, we decided to keep it where it was. Six months later I received “the call”, and was moments later dialing the crisis line for our county for support. Would my child be hospitalized at the age of 10?
The Warning SIgns we missed
The weeks before we had all noticed a few changes in my son. There was more anxiety. With the anxiety came outbursts at school. Maybe it was just the spring? Maybe he just needed spring break? Was school becoming harder?
He spoke at home of being “severely depressed”. Those were his words. He had taken a quiz online and it had scored him this low. I told him he was fine and that it would be OK. It was just a tough few days. I really didn’t talk more about it with him.
At school he echoed the “severely depressed.” He spoke more of being worthless, lonely, that he didn’t belong on this planet. They sent a few messages home talking about the increased behavior and negative self talk.
We all hoped it was a phase we could support him through. We even had started seeing a new therapist and had visited her one time.
The Day of “The call”
I don’t really know the exact thing that happened at school. His behavior had been slowly escalating the days prior. All I know is that I was sitting at my desk at work and his Special Education teacher called me. For the last few hours my son had been in her room. He wouldn’t stop speaking negatively about himself. He had gone into great detail of how he would end his life.
I started crying because I didn’t know what to do and I felt completely helpless. And to be honest, I felt stupid. How did I not see this coming? Was it really that serious? I work in the school system and help other kids all the time. Why didn’t I know what to do?
The school recommended that I call our county crisis line. I picked my son up from school and we met the county social worker at our house 30 minutes later.
By this time, my son was in much better spirits. But, I was shaken. Maybe we had overreacted? (In the end, I would say we definitely did not overreact. Everything we did was to support our child.)
The County Social Worker came and assessed the situation. Basically we had the option of sending him to the hospital for a 72 hour hold. Because of his age, it was not recommended since it is unknown what he would be exposed to during this stay. Instead it was determined that we felt confident about keeping him safe at home.
We got an emergency appointment with a psychologist to help reevaluate the medication. Without the emergency appointment, we would have waited 4 weeks or more for an appointment. Instead we got in within the week.
The Days/Weeks/Months After
It was rough. My son become very expressive of his anxiety and depression. Most nights he spent an hour or so talking to me about how lonely, and depressed he was. He constantly talked about how worthless he was and how the world wouldn’t even care if he was gone. I listened, I negated, I told him how wonderful he was. I just hugged him. A lot.
Some days were worse than others. He was overwhelmed by simple things. I felt like we had reverted back to when he was a 5 year old and had no coping skills for any irritation, challenge, etc. He had tantrums, and cried. He even tried running away one night.
My heart broke each time he told me how he put a smile on his face so people wouldn’t know how much he was hurting. He was broken inside. I tried not to show him, but I was broken too.
Little by little, he started making progress. First it was a good day or two in a row. We considered sending him to a day treatment program instead of school. As he continued making progress, we decided against it. He was seeing a therapist regularly, and had increased his medication. During this time, it was hard to know exactly what we should do as parents.
Here we are 5 months past the day. I still think about him all the time. Are we doing enough to support him? How can I ask him how he is doing without annoying him with the questions? Did we make the right decisions? Will he ever feel “not depressed”? Will I worry about him being suicidal for his entire life?
I am a mom. And my job is to love my children. My love is unconditional for my son. I will never stop trying to do my best for him. I just hope we can teach him that he is not alone. That there are many other children who feel the same way he does. And it is OK. We are here to help support him and give him the help he needs to move past these dark moments.
Throughout this whole time, I have been very open with family and friends about what is going on with my son. Their reactions are varied, but overall we are surrounded by support and love. It has even motivated others around me to finally open up with their stories too.
If your child is struggling with mental health or suicidal ideation, please know that you are not alone. Together we can support each other.
Please feel free to share your stories with me anytime. (LisaE@championyourparenting.com) .
By Lisa Edwards, M.Ed., Parent Coach
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my 10 year old son is suicidal: a parenting story for support
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