Making decisions about when and where to seek treatment for a child experiencing suicidal ideation can feel overwhelming. While it is not uncommon for adolescents facing a mental health challenge, such as depression or anxiety, to express thoughts of suicide, it is a serious issue that should be quickly addressed. Once you determine that a child is at risk of suicide, they should be assessed by a mental health professional with experience treating adolescents.
What is Suicidal Ideation?
Suicidal ideation is a term used to describe a range of thoughts, desires, and preoccupations with death or someone taking their own life, according to the National Institutes of Health. Thoughts of self-harm or suicide can be a symptom of mental illness or a reaction to stressful life situations. Effectively addressing suicidal thoughts is vital for preventing self-harm and fostering mental well-being in a child. It often requires the treatment of a larger mental health challenge, and the development of coping and communication skills.
Embrace U is an adolescent mental health clinic in Brentwood, TN. Contact us today to learn how we can help your child overcome depression and suicidal ideation with comprehensive therapy and peer support services.
How to Treat a Child with Suicidal Thoughts
Treatment options range from individual therapy, where a child meets with a therapist one-on-one, to residential programs, where a child stays at a behavioral health center until it is determined they are no longer at risk of suicide. Protecting an adolescent from attempting suicide requires vigilance and support. Psychiatric medications may be prescribed.
Helping a child experiencing suicidal ideation develop skills in solving problems, resolving conflicts, and handling disputes without violence can lower their risk. A strong support network, anchored by adults who listen and offer sympathy can make a difference. Many children who are having suicidal thoughts benefit from group therapy sessions, where they learn they are not alone in struggling with mental challenges. Through group interactions they gain skills and confidence to live a happier life.
Understanding Suicidal Ideation
Suicidal ideation can vary from fleeting considerations to meticulously devised plans and can be profoundly distressing for those experiencing them. It is a grave concern that necessitates swift and appropriate intervention.
Parents can be a vital source of support for adolescents facing intrusive thoughts or passive suicidal ideation. By understanding the differences between these experiences and taking appropriate actions, parents can help their adolescents navigate their mental health challenges with care and compassion.
Classification of Suicidal Ideation & The DSM-5
Suicide remains one of the most challenging problems that mental health researchers and clinicians must deal with, and the problem is getting worse as rising trends in the global suicide rate take hold. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 to 24, and the trend has only worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic began. That is why accurately diagnosing and assessing your child for suicidal ideation is vital in the recovery process.
The DSM-5, a handbook used by healthcare professionals to diagnose mental disorders, explains that a diagnosis of suicide behavior disorder would require an individual to meet all five of the following diagnostic criteria:
- Within the last 24 months, the individual has made a suicide attempt.
- The act does not meet the criteria for non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI).
- The diagnosis is not applied to suicidal ideation or preparatory acts.
- The act was not initiated during a state of delirium or confusion.
- The act was not undertaken solely for a political or religious objective.
If you are concerned your child is experiencing suicidal ideation, contact Embrace U today. Our adolescent depression treatment program in Brentwood can help.
Benefits of Treatment for Suicidal Ideation
Treatment for adolescents experiencing suicidal ideation can involve a number of therapeutic approaches. It’s essential for parents to work closely with mental health professionals to develop a comprehensive and personalized treatment plan. Here are several factors parents should consider when making this decision:
Severity of Suicidal Ideation: The level of risk associated with the child’s suicidal thoughts is a crucial factor. A mental health professional can assess the severity, frequency, and immediacy of the ideation to determine the appropriate level of care.
Safety and Immediate Intervention: If the child is an immediate danger to themselves, it’s crucial to prioritize safety. In some cases, hospitalization or a crisis intervention team may be necessary to ensure the child’s safety.
Underlying Mental Health Conditions: Suicidal ideation is often linked to underlying mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or borderline personality disorder. Identifying and addressing these conditions is fundamental to effective treatment.
Age and Developmental Stage: The age of the child can influence the choice of treatment. Younger children may benefit from different interventions than adolescents. Age-appropriate therapies and support systems should be considered.
Therapeutic Modalities: Different therapeutic approaches can be effective for addressing suicidal ideation. These may include individual therapy, family therapy, group therapy, or a combination of these. Parents should discuss options with a mental health professional to determine the most suitable approach.
Medication: In some cases, medication may be part of the treatment plan, especially if the child has a diagnosed mental health condition that responds well to medication. The decision to use medication should be made in consultation with a child psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner.
Therapist or Counselor Qualifications: The qualifications and experience of the therapist or counselor are vital. Ensure they are licensed, experienced in working with children and adolescents, and have expertise in addressing suicidal ideation.
Family Involvement: Involving the family in the treatment process can be highly beneficial, particularly in cases where family dynamics contribute to the child’s distress. Family therapy can help address underlying issues and improve communication within the family.
Supportive Environment: Creating a supportive and safe home environment is crucial. Parents should be aware of potential triggers and stressors and work to reduce them.
School Involvement: Collaboration with the child’s school is essential. Teachers and school counselors can play a vital role in providing support and accommodations to help the child succeed academically.
Crisis Management Plan: Develop a crisis management plan in consultation with mental health professionals. This plan should outline what to do in case of an emergency or worsening of symptoms.
Ongoing Monitoring: Treatment is not a one-time event. Parents should be prepared for ongoing monitoring and therapy to ensure the child’s mental health improves and remains stable.
Access to Resources: Be aware of and access community resources and support groups for both the child and the family. Peer support and additional resources can be invaluable.
Remember that every child’s situation is unique, and the treatment plan should be tailored to their specific needs. Open and honest communication with mental health professionals is crucial to making informed decisions and providing the best care for the child. Parents should also prioritize self-care and support for themselves to better help their child through this challenging time.
How Embrace U Can Help
Are you a worried parent concerned about the struggle your adolescent is having with suicidal thoughts? It’s not just you. Starting with evidence-based care that offers a ray of hope is the first step toward recovery.
These specialized treatments offer a structured and highly individualized approach to addressing the underlying causes of your child’s suicidal thoughts, and they are based on rigorous scientific research.
It’s critical to get in touch with qualified experts who specialize in evidence-based therapies if you suspect your adolescent is struggling with suicidal ideation. These interventions can give your child the tools and support they need to overcome this significant mental health obstacle.
Never be afraid to ask a mental health professional for the advice and support your family needs as a parent or guardian. The assistance you require is easily obtainable, and your child’s welfare is of the utmost importance.