What to Watch For

If your child had a suicide plan or attempt before hospitalization, you will probably be told that the greatest likelihood of a repeat attempt is within the first three months. This is unhappy news, especially given all you have been through. Your task will be to figure out how to monitor your kid’s mental state without being overbearing — and without dissolving into your own puddle of worry. There are three aspects to making this happen.

  1. You will need to manage your own anxiety well. Use whatever works for you, whether it is exercise, meditation, yoga, mindfulness or slow breathing (there are some good apps available for your phone), journaling, long showers, talking to your own therapist, or something else. Find a combination of approaches that include everyday preventative measures (to keep your baseline anxiety at a reasonable level) and in-the-moment techniques (for specific stressful situations). If you need medication, get it.
  2. You will need to keep lines of communication with your child open. Refresh your memory of good techniques for talking with your teen. In times of stress we all tend to revert to old habits, so it’s a good idea to bring healthy habits to the front of your mind by reading up on them.
  3. You will need guidance on what to do if your child tells you she still has thoughts of self-harm. Talk to your child’s therapist for tips. Knowing the difference between passive and active suicidal ideation can help you stay calm and practical.

Your child’s outpatient team will probably ask you to set up additional therapy and psychiatry appointments for a period of time. This is expensive and a logistical headache, but you will want someone else to assess your child’s safety regularly, especially while changes in medication are being made.