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Intervening if you think your adult child is suicidal?

It’s often best if we can collect several resource ideas, then gently offer them and allow your adult child to make their own choice.

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Question:


If you think your adult child is suicidal is there any way to prevent it, barring having them committed and would you advise such a measure?
-T


Dear T,

First of all, let me say that my heart goes out to you in this situation. To hear that someone we love no longer wants to live is terribly painful, especially when it is our child.

You wanted to know what, barring commitment, you can do. I would suggest that you don’t take that option off the table, as it is sometimes the only remaining choice. Please read Victoria’s response below to get a better idea of what “commitment” really involves.

I imagine you have already tried many approaches to dealing with your child’s unhappiness. It is a good idea to get your child’s permission before you move too strongly into rescuing them. Be sure you ask your child, in a calm moment, what they need from you to get better. Do they just want space? Do they want you to reduce your expectations in some way? Do they want you to assure them that you love them and you believe they can recover? Do they need you to arrange or pay for counselling?


Be sure you ask your child, in a calm moment, what they need from you to get better.


I suggest you help with getting counselling, because the research shows that seeing a counsellor who is experienced with people with depression and suicidal thoughts is often very helpful, but many people don’t have the energy or hope that is needed to find a counsellor when they need one most. If counselling is not possible, your family doctor may be able to help.


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I don’t know where you live, but most places have suicide resource lines or crisis lines. Some are even text-based, which a lot of youth prefer over phone conversations. There are a lot of resources that can be used to help bring a person back from the brink.

The problem for a parent is how to find the resources in their community, and then how to get your child to agree to use them. It’s often best if we can collect several resource ideas, then gently offer them and allow your adult child to make their own choice.


It’s often best if we can collect several resource ideas, then gently offer them.


In the end, this is the hardest, and one of the most important things I can tell you. Your child is an adult, who will make their own decisions. We can offer information and support, and that is all. They will choose their own path.

And since that is the hard truth, my strong suggestion to you is that you find a counsellor for yourself. Caring for yourself, and getting control of your own emotions about this will make you into a better support system for your child. It will also help you to make it through the marathon of supporting someone with mental illness and all that brings with it.


Caring for yourself will make you into a better support system for your child.


Sincerely,

Colleen Fuller, M.A., RCC

In response to “commitment”:

Editor’s Note: Victoria works in British Columbia, which falls under the Fraser Health Mental Health Act. We recommend you look up the mental health act (or similar) for your province/state/area.

Under the mental health act, when a person may be of harm to themselves or others (due to mental health issues), they qualify to be considered to be certified (“committed”), or involuntarily admitted to hospital.


When a person may be of harm to themselves or others (due to mental health issues), they qualify to be considered to be certified (“committed”).


Involuntary admittance involves the submission of an application to a mental health professional on someone’s behalf. This application is reviewed by health care professionals who, within 24 hours, will examine the person and submit their recommendations. If the recommendation is that the person be placed in the hospital for follow-up and treatment, then the person will be brought to the hospital and involuntarily admitted. Every 21 days a person will be re-evaluated and the order that gives permission for the person to be kept in the hospital needs to be re-signed.


involuntary admittance involves the submission of an application to a mental health professional on someone’s behalf.


It is a rare occurrence to be admitted involuntarily. Only about 10% of all admissions for mental health concerns are involuntary. The goal for a patient who is admitted involuntarily is to support them in receiving any treatment necessary to stabilize their health to a point where they are no longer at risk of harming themselves or others.


Only about 10% of all admissions for mental health concerns are involuntary.


Most hospitals and mental health care facilities use a number of approaches to care. Patients meet with counsellors, psychiatrists, physicians, nurses, dieticians, etc., and are given opportunities to be involved in a range of therapeutic groups such as art or music therapy.

You will find more information by looking up the mental health act for the area you live in (i.e. province or state).

Sincerely,

Victoria Wilkinson, BScN, RN

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Colleen Fuller is a Registered Clinical Counsellor with a Master’s in Counselling Psychology from City University of Seattle. She is also a happy wife and the proud mom of two terrific young adults. She has a private practice in Vancouver, Canada, called Creative Solutions Counselling. If you would like to know more about her or consult with her (in person or via Skype), you can visit https://creativesolutionscounselling.com.