One of the first projects I wanted to tackle after loosing V was to create a guidebook for parents whos child had just been hospitalized for suicidal ideation. I remember spending so many sleepless nights trying to figure it all out. Which doctors were good with kids. Who took our insurance. How to suicide-proof a home. How to coordinate with school and sports and doctors appts. How to get him into the professionals he needed. Which kinds of testing he needed. Who could get him in sooner than 6 months. How to best parent him. How to take care of myself. How and when to have conversations. How and when to worry. How and when to know he's 'just being a kid'. How to....
I remember thinking 'I'm so exhausted and overwhelmed. I need someone to give me a roadmap. I just need help getting pointed in the right direction with the right next general steps and I can figure out the rest.'
I have witnessed via my career, and have witnessed via families who have reached out after their child has been hospitalized, that I was hardly the only parent feeling lost and overwhelmed by the system.
I haven't made that roadmap. Thinking back to those rougher times is doable but comes at a cost. And one of the things I've been working on in therapy is learning when the cost is ok and when I'm just being a sucker for punishment.
But Robbies Hope, a nonprofit founded after the suicide of a Colorado youth, were able to make some handbooks, and they were wise enough to know teens needed to be the ones telling us how to talk to them.
Linked to this post is their Adult Handbook and I would highly recommend looking through it. It gives guidelines on when it's important vs critical to talk with your teen about mental health. It gives guidance on do's and don'ts of where, how, and what to say. There are tips on navigating the conversations and on how to end one conversation and pick it up later. It is very well done.
Their website itself is full of really great resources, some different than the ones we have listed.
According to new CDC data, 3 out of 5 highschool girls in 2021 felt persistently sad or hopeless, and 1 in 3 reported seriously contemplating suicide. While girls numbers are higher than boys, we know that boys consistently underreport and can assume their number have increased drastically as well.
I know these conversations are tough, but trust me when I say they matter. And you can do hard things. <3