I’m a suicide survivor.
It’s a painful story but I’m still here, telling it in spite of my mom.
Two key lessons lie here that could save your kid’s life.
So will you pull up a chair and listen? Will you hear about the people who saved me and the one who didn’t?
I sent the hardest text to my mom, husband, and two friends on a terrible Friday in December of 2018 as I was getting off work: “I’ve been thinking about where I can get a gun all day. I’m in a really dark place. I need help.”
One friend immediately texted me back and asked if I was home. When I told her that I was just leaving work, she called me and talked me through the drive home.
The other responded, “I’m coming over tonight with your favorite food and movies so you and your husband aren’t alone.”
My husband immediately asked me what I needed. I told him to be standing in the garage because even that short walk from the car to the house didn’t feel safe.
True to their word, each person fulfilled their promise exactly. They were calm and strong for me, keeping me alive until I checked myself into a psychiatric hospital for professional help. They saved my life; without them, I wouldn’t be here to tell you my story.
Now, you’ll notice I haven’t yet told you how my mom reacted.
When I reached out, she texted back to ask if I was home with my husband. I told her that I was completely alone. Hours passed with no response. She blew me off. It wasn’t until I was checking into a mental hospital that she cared but by then, it was too little too late.
Here’s why that matters.
Depression told me no one would miss me if I was gone and my mom’s cold response confirmed that thought.
I’m telling you my story today, in spite of her.
As grateful as I am to be alive, there are hardly words to describe the emotional damage her response did to me.
So, parents, what I am asking you to do if your kid confesses suicidal thoughts to you?
1) Recognize the gift you’ve been given.
“What?” you might be asking. “Did she really just say that?”
Yes, I did. Let me tell you why.
Depression sucked the light out of my soul, plunging me into darkness so deep it was impossible to see a way out. Filling my head with lies, it whispered “no one will miss you if you’re gone. You don’t matter. You’re a problem.” I was trapped in hopelessness so intense it hurt my bones.
Crying out for help was the bravest thing I’ve done in my life. I had to lay myself bare in my darkest moment and I could only do this with the people I trusted most.
If your kid seeks your help during suicidal moments, they’re trusting you with their life.
That is the gift.
It’s terrible. Heavy. Scary. A gift you’d never want to receive but consider the strength it took for your kid to invite you in like that. This isn’t a burden they can share with just anyone.
Please, I ask you. Recognize the sacredness of this gift, scary as it might feel, before taking the next step.
2) Respond with calm, never panic.
I get it. Panic is a natural response to such a scary revelation from your kid. However, it might be the most unhelpful reaction.
Panic is often a transfer of emotions.
Let me explain.
If you’ve ever reassured a friend in panic, you know the emotional work it requires. You empathize with their fear, entering their situation to help bring them out. You strap those emotions on like a backpack and help that friend carry the weight they can’t.
This exchange is the beauty of relationships. Yet, consider the impact on your suicidal kid.
They’ve hit rock bottom and reached out, begging you to help them because they can’t find an escape. Rather than lifting them up, panic becomes another emotional burden to carry when they’re already struggling with their own.
The roles could easily flip and they might become the one comforting you.
This is a weight they can’t carry in that moment.
When my friends and husband responded calmly to me, they help lift me out of my darkness, empowering me to hang on long enough to get professional help. I literally owe my life to them.
Now, I’m going to clarify.
I’m not asking you ignore the natural reaction of fear. My husband was truly panicked (truthfully, we both needed therapy the year after to cope with the emotional scars of that experience). Yet, in the moment, he was my steady rock. The calm presence I could fall onto when I couldn’t carry the weight of my darkness.
Please. Be this for your kid.
So, parents, here’s what I’m telling you as a survivor.
If your kid tells you they’re suicidal, you have two choices on how to respond.
You can take them seriously or blow them off. It’s your choice to help or hurt them.
Are you going to be the reason your kid says “I’m here because of my parents”?
Or, are you going to repeat my story and be the reason your kid says “I survived in spite of my parents”?
But what if it didn’t have to go that far? The Aqua One helps you be proactive, not reactive.
We created this smartphone to empower you with the knowledge of what your kid is doing online. With the activity feed in your Parent Dashboard, you can see if your kid is expressing suicidal thoughts to others or accessing harmful content online. Through their answers to the Mental Health Checks, you’ll have unparalleled insight into the ups and downs of their emotional health. With all this knowledge, you have the power to be proactive about your kid’s mental health.