Supporting Your Suicidal Child: the Most Important Thing You Can Do


No parent wants to believe that their child will attempt suicide.

No parent wants to consider how they will respond in the event of a suicide attempt by their child, be it “successful” or “unsuccessful”. I’m here now to implore you, please consider, and even plan in advance how you will respond to these scenarios or similar tragedies. Because if it happens to you, your response can either help or harm your suicidal child.

After surviving 6 suicide attempts during my teen years, I know from experience what helped and harmed me in my loved ones’ responses. Here are my thoughts on how to support a child who survives a suicide attempt.

The absolute most important aspect to helping your child after a suicide attempt is RESPECTING YOUR CHILD’S PRIVACY! In today’s world of social media, cell phones, and oversharing, lack of privacy is pervasive. People oftentimes do not fully understand the significant impact sharing private, personal information carries. Surviving a suicide attempt almost always comes with physical injury, further emotional trauma, and sometimes legal consequences. There may be deep feelings of shame, humiliation, and failure.

Your suicidal child doesn’t deserve to have the world scrutinizing their every move as they recover and rebuild their life. No one wants to feel like their troubles are on display.

empty rocking chair My parents afforded me an unprecedented level of privacy during my years spent in and out of psychiatric hospitals and through many suicide attempts. Not because they were ashamed of me, but because my mental health and suicide attempts weren’t their stories to tell. This kept me safe. I wasn’t unexpectedly triggered by someone bringing up my suicide attempts during my healing process. I was aware of exactly who knew about my situation.

If your suicidal child is medically compromised (i.e. on life support, unconscious, or unstable), do NOT share pictures publicly or even privately to your Facebook friends. If you need to document the situation, take a picture but please wait until your child can choose how and where it is shared. In those moments your child is incredibly vulnerable, it is your job to protect them, not exploit them.

If you wouldn’t share your deepest, darkest secret with someone, then do not share the details of your child’s suicide attempt. A suicide attempt is a deeply personal and traumatic event.

Your suicidal child needs privacy and control over their own narrative. Do share recent pictures, videos, and warm memories of your child.

Do create a private, hidden Facebook group, email group, or text message group with very close family and friends to share details and important information. If you trust these people, and their ability to support your child non judgmentally, share the suicide attempt information cautiously, and in a limited, need-to-know manner.

Let your child recover with dignity.

If you, as the parent, want or need to share publicly, be general. Give as little information as possible in order to get the support you may need. An example: “{name} was brought to the hospital today due to an illness/accident, please send warm thoughts and prayers their way.”

Not sharing the fact that your child’s illness/injury is related to a suicide attempt is not furthering the shame and stigma associated with suicide. It is merely giving the power to speak out to the rightful owner. Your child deserves the right to disclose this information if and when they choose to.

Your trauma and your feelings are valid. Your experience matters. You matter. And your suicidal child’s privacy still needs to come first. Like many other aspects of parenting, we need to put our children’s needs before our own. In those moments, you can seek alternate ways to have your needs met that don’t compromise your child’s privacy and healing.

In addition to protecting their privacy, support your child with love and without judgment. Full stop.

Do not ask them “why?” They don’t have to justify what they did.

Do not insist that “they have a great family, so many friends, etc”, because these statements do nothing but pile guilt on a clearly struggling child. I had a good life in my teen years and when people would point that out, it felt so dismissive of my actual experience. These sorts of comments made me wonder, how stupid was I to be struggling when my life was so great?

Mental illness does NOT care how loving your family and friends are, or how smart and popular you are., It does NOT discriminate.

I suffered immensely despite my circumstances. I still cope with suicidal ideation despite the idyllic life I have and I understand now that this is due to my mental illness. But when I was a teen, I didn’t understand that yet and those questions and statements only served to make me feel guilty and ungrateful.

Let go of your expectations for what your child should feel, what they should do, and what their recovery should look like. The emotions surrounding survival are overwhelming, confusing, terrifying, and difficult to process. How each survivor moves forward looks unique. For some, it is a wake-up call and they’ll never attempt again, for others the despair deepens.

Do everything you can to get your suicidal child appropriate, and supportive mental health care for years afterward, not just months. Leave no rock unturned. It is incredibly difficult to access mental health care in the US but your child is worth the fight. If a therapist isn’t a good fit, keep searching. If one program doesn’t take your insurance, look for another. I promise you, there is hope. My parents fought for my life for years. They found dozens of therapists, programs, and hospitals in numerous states just to keep me safe and to get me the help I needed.

My parents kept me alive and safe long enough for me to learn how to do this for myself.

family picture As I’ve gone through early adulthood, healing from my trauma and treating my mental illness, I’ve explored how and when I would share my story. I needed to do it in a way that feels safe, helpful, and encouraging. This is it. I can write this post, and share my experiences in my own words because my parents afforded me that power. The narrative of my suicide attempts is mine to dictate. It is important to me to share this because too often these stories are left untold, silenced by shame and societal stigma. My lived experience can help others recover and heal with dignity.

I hope you and your children never experience this sorrow, but if you do, please afford your suicidal child the dignity to control the narrative that is rightfully theirs.

Supporting Your Suicidal Child: the Most Important Thing You Can Do


  1. What a wonderful, articulate, honest, and ultimately hopeful article Brianna. You have found your voice and the world is better for it!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here