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In the last section, we discussed four techniques available to parents to help foster independence in a teen undergoing a depressive or suicidal crisis. These four techniques are providing choices, problem solving, listening techniques, and active interest.
In this section, we will discuss guidelines for parents regarding intervention during a teen’s suicidal crisis in four situations. These four situations are, an emergency life threatening attempt, a non-emergency life-threatening attempt, possible suicide, and a low-risk situation.
4 Guidelines regading Intervention
♦ Guideline #1 - Emergency Life Threatening Attempt
Depending on the severity of the teen’s action, the parent may need to call 911, take the child to a doctor, or contact me or my emergency line. Hospitalization may need to be discussed. Once the teen’s immediate physical safety has been provided for, I encourage parents to try to determine the method the teen client used in their attempt. If the teen has attempted suicide by drug overdose, I encourage parents to Write Down the Following:
♦ Guideline #2 - Non Emergency Life-Threatening Event
Safe Place Technique
♦ Guideline #3 - Lowe-Risk Situation of Possible Suicide
In addition, Toby’s girlfriend of three years had recently requested that they become "just friends" so that she could date other people. Toby’s favorite teacher became concerned that Toby’s behavior was becoming unusual, and spoke with Toby. The teacher discovered that Toby had been thinking of killing himself, but was concerned how this would affect his mother’s health. Toby did not have a specific plan, but he did have a time picked out. His mother would be going out of state to visit her sister the following week.
Toby stated that this would be an ideal time, since "at least his mother would have someone with her" when she got the news. Toby’s teacher also discovered that Toby had been giving away possessions. When Toby’s teacher notified his parents, they brought Toby in for therapy. In this moderate risk situation, crisis intervention focused on creating a supportive family situation to help Toby during therapy. I also suggested family counseling to reinforce family support. As with family intervention during a non emergency life threatening situation, I also reviewed risk reduction home procedures with Toby’s family.
These interventions are also appropriate in the case of a suicidal gesture, such as superficial scratching or cutting of the wrists.
♦ Guideline #4 - Low-Risk Situation
By working with parents to help them encourage the teen to talk at home, the family environment increases in its ability to provide support and compliment the work the teen is doing with me in therapy. One caution I give to parents of teen clients in a lower risk situation is that while they should offer potential solutions to the teen’s daily life problems, they should not be surprised if the solution is rejected. I encourage parents to recognize that this rejection only means that the teen needs to continue talking, and is not yet ready for problem solving because the negative emotion they are experiencing is too strong.
Think of a teen client you are currently treating as the result of a risk of suicide. To which risk group does the teen belong? Would playing this section in your next session with your teen client’s parents be helpful to them?
In this section, we have discussed guidelines for parents regarding intervention during a teen’s suicidal crisis in four situations. These four situations are, an emergency life threatening attempt, a non-emergency life-threatening attempt, possible suicide, and a low-risk situation.
In the next section we will discuss two focus areas for family change following a teen client’s suicide attempt. These two focus areas are what to say about the attempt and realistic expectations.