The focus in Lafayette, California was to do a presentation to help parents recognize signs of suicide in their kids, watch other kids who might display risks, and what to do and say if they do. Most importantly, I wanted to share tips about how we can prevent kids from getting to crisis. This presentation is based on both of my books, Diary of a Broken Mind, an award-winning memoir. And Emotionally Naked: A Teacher’s Guide to Preventing Suicide and Recognizing Students at Risk.
Suicide Prevention Parent Program (pdf)
Here are a few of the questions from parents at the suicide prevention for students event:
1. You talked about a safety plan. Who gives them one? And what is a safety plan?
A suicide safety plan is a document, an app, or even an index card with certain elements that guide the person before and during a moment of crisis. Usually, a therapist trained in suicide prevention helps the person who is struggling with thoughts of suicide create a safety plan after doing a suicide risk assessment.
A safety plan is a way to remind an individual of their connection to life, list healthy coping strategies they have identified as helpful, as well as people and trusted resources they can reach out to prior to and in crisis situations.
Here’s the thing. A therapist isn’t the only one who can do a safety plan with an individual or even a child. Anyone can do it as an activity to focus on coping skills someone would employ when life explodes in our faces. So parents can do a version of a safety plan with their child. Teachers can even do this as a class activity. It might be hard to do all the elements but the most important aspects of a plan can be done. The absolute most important part of a safety plan is the Reasons for Living. (Here is a Resilience & Safety Planning Activity for Students (ppt and pdf).)
The simple safety plan for parents and kids, kids and teachers, or even friend-to-friend has these elements:
- Reasons for Living
- Coping Strategies
- People to Reach out To
- Crisis Resources
Here is an example of an index card safety plan.
Those done with a therapist could include one for the child and one for the parent. Because you need to know what to do, too. The actual task of safety planning should also include “removing means ” –things in the home that would allow a person to follow through with ending their life. The idea is to put time between thought and action. And yes, large bottles of Tylenol can be deadly or cause permanent liver damage if taken in OD quantities.
But no one has to wait for a therapist appointment and you can do one at any time for yourself or with your child. Other examples of safety plans are below.
Blog post: Creating a crisis safety plan: Hacks for the rest of us
- My Suicide Safety Plan (Empty. source: Dr. Tracey Marks)
- Parent and child safety plans (Empty ones and examples. source: Kimberly O’Brien PhD, LICSW)
- Stanley Brown Safety Plan template (Empty. most widely used)
- Suicide Safety Plan Template (create one online)
- Example of a safety plan that is filled in
- Example: Cheyenne’s Safety Plan (She is a neurodiverse 21-year-old from the UK with whom Anne Moss has been messaging back and forth for about 2 years)
- Example: Index Card Safety Plan (Source: Dr. Craig Bryan)
2. What if the child tells people who could help they are fine? My child has shared that he has felt suicidal and depressed but refuses to connect with help and tells me he is fine.
Charles didn’t comply worth squat. It was uber frustrating and what’s more, it made me feel desperate. So I have several strategies that have been effective.
- You make an appointment with a therapist. Yes, you. Not your loved one. At some point, you invite your child to go. But here’s the deal. You approach it like this. You say you went to get help which you did because who knows what to do when your kid is spiraling? Or maybe not doing great and your gut is telling you that something is wrong. So next, you say to your child. “I’ve been struggling so I went to a therapist for help. He has asked if I can bring in some family members to help me with my issues. Would you help me with this? You don’t have to go again if you don’t want but I would appreciate it.”
- Jacob, a dad, bought my first book, Diary of a Broken Mind. He read it and then left it lying around the house and then their teenager read it and it opened up a conversation. Charles’s lyrics are included in every other chapter and it’s that insight that helps parents understand. And the young people love them because it illustrates how they feel. Another parent, Carolyn, read it and bookmarked some of Charles’s rap songs and then specifically asked her son if that’s how he felt. Her son was shocked at how on target the passage was and it opened up an hour-long heart-to-heart conversation and listening. Ultimately her son felt seen and heard and has since been more open with his mom.
- A number of attendees at NAMI family to family, which is a free class for people who have loved ones who live with a mental health condition. One of the attendees, a dad, told his daughter he was going to this class. She asked him why and he said he felt their relationship could be better and he thought it was his lack of understanding that was getting in the way. He said he wanted to go to the class so he could understand more about what she lived with and so he could be more empathic. She cried and gave him a hug and said, “thank you.” Then they had one of the best conversations ever.
Get the resources here.
The index cards from the event are here
Struggling teens. Mental illness or teen angst?
More mental health and suicide prevention index cards here from Lafayette, CA trip.
Oh my gosh our school district could use a mental health speaker right now. Our kids are really struggling and we have had two student suicides and a teacher. I am personally going to work on this.
My Quick Question contact form is here if you wanted any materials or handouts. https://annemossrogers.com/quick-question/