The Question That Could Save a Life

It takes courage to ask for help. Sometimes it takes just as much courage to ask if someone needs it.

Everyone has their ups and downs but if someone you know is acting differently, he or she could be depressed.

The Warning Signs

The warning signs to watch out for are:

  • changes in weight or appetite,
  • change in mood,
  • sleeping more or less,
  • drinking more than usual,
  • mood changes,
  • anxiety,
  • acting more aggressively,
  • making passing comments (or more) about death and dying,
  • disengagement from people and activities that once were enjoyed,
  • no longer seem to enjoy the things they used to,
  • knowing someone who has tried suicide.

More than anything, trust that ‘feeling’ you have that things aren’t quite right. Always trust it.

If You Suspect Someone Is Thinking of Giving Up …

If you think someone might be suicidal, ask the question. And be direct. 

There’s a misconception that discussing suicide might plant the idea, but it just doesn’t work like this. If someone is contemplating suicide, the idea will already be there. If they aren’t, talking about it won’t put the idea into their mind. Suicide isn’t caused by asking the question. Never has been.

According to Dr Scott Poland, one of the major causes of suicide are feelings of isolation and disconnectedness. People who are suicidal are hurting. Knowing  that someone has cared enough to notice and ask the question can interrupt the path towards suicide enough for the person to seek help.

Be direct. To start with, try something like, ‘You seem a bit down lately. Can we talk about it?’ Then, if you suspect, even in the slightest, that the person might be suicidal ask the question directly. ‘People who feel like that sometimes think about suicide. Do you have any thoughts of suicide?’ or just, ‘Are you thinking that you don’t want to live anymore?’

Skirting around the issue by using words like ‘hurting yourself,’ instead of ‘suicide,’ can give the message that talking about suicide is unacceptable and might undermine the conversation. Suicidal people aren’t interesting in ‘hurting themselves’, they’re interested in killing themselves. In indirect question is less likely to bring about a direct response.

And If The Answer is ‘Yes’?

If the answer is ‘yes’, take it seriously and don’t minimise the situation with responses like, ‘plenty of people feel like this but they don’t kill themselves,’ or, ‘it’s not that bad’. If someone is thinking of killing themselves, it is that bad. It’s as bad as it gets. What other people in the same situation did will be completely irrelevant.

Tell them you’re there for them and you’ll get through this together, let them know depression is treatable and help them get help.

An important question in response to hearing someone is suicidal is to ask if the person has worked out how they would do it. If the answer is ‘I don’t know,’ let them know that you’re here for them and help them get help. If the response reveals a clear intention to suicide and a plan, ask about the plan. Dr Pollard suggests to ask questions as though you were asking about a trip the person was going on: – where, when, how. Most importantly, get help immediately (call a national suicide support line or crisis line, take the person to a doctor or hospital, or if they won’t go, call the doctor or hospital for help). Most importantly, don’t leave the person alone.

Sometimes, if somebody has made the decision to suicide, they may seem happier than they have for a long time. This can be mistaken for a sign that the person has worked their way through to the other side of their depression and is feeling genuinely happier. What’s more likely is that the happy change has come about because the person has found a way to end their hurt, and it will just be a matter  of time. In this situation, stay vigilant, stay close and get help.

Talking about suicide is the surest way to keep safe those whose pain feels unbearable. It doesn’t matter is the words you choose aren’t the perfect ones. It’s not about the words – it’s about the connection and anything said with compassion and a genuine intent will not do any harm.

See here for what to say – and what not to say – to someone who’s depressed.

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During adolescence, our teens are more likely to pay attention to the positives of a situation over the negatives. This can be a great thing. The courage that comes from this will help them try new things, explore their independence, and learn the things they need to learn to be happy, healthy adults. But it can also land them in bucketloads of trouble. 

Here’s the thing. Our teens don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to go behind our backs, but they also don’t want to be controlled by us, or have any sense that we might be stifling their way towards independence. The cold truth of it all is that if they want something badly enough, and if they feel as though we are intruding or that we are making arbitrary decisions just because we can, or that we don’t get how important something is to them, they have the will, the smarts and the means to do it with or without or approval. 

So what do we do? Of course we don’t want to say ‘yes’ to everything, so our job becomes one of influence over control. To keep them as safe as we can, rather than saying ‘no’ (which they might ignore anyway) we want to engage their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) so they can be more considered in their decision making. 

Our teens are very capable of making good decisions, but because the rational, logical, thinking prefrontal cortex won’t be fully online until their 20s (closer to 30 in boys), we need to wake it up and bring it to the decision party whenever we can. 

Do this by first softening the landing:
‘I can see how important this is for you. You really want to be with your friends. I absolutely get that.’
Then, gently bring that thinking brain to the table:
‘It sounds as though there’s so much to love in this for you. I don’t want to get in your way but I need to know you’ve thought about the risks and planned for them. What are some things that could go wrong?’
Then, we really make the prefrontal cortex kick up a gear by engaging its problem solving capacities:
‘What’s the plan if that happens.’
Remember, during adolescence we switch from managers to consultants. Assume a leadership presence, but in a way that is warm, loving, and collaborative.♥️
Big feelings and big behaviour are a call for us to come closer. They won’t always feel like that, but they are. Not ‘closer’ in an intrusive ‘I need you to stop this’ way, but closer in a ‘I’ve got you, I can handle all of you’ kind of way - no judgement, no need for you to be different - I’m just going to make space for this feeling to find its way through. 

Our kids and teens are no different to us. When we have feelings that fill us to overloaded, the last thing we need is someone telling us that it’s not the way to behave, or to calm down, or that we’re unbearable when we’re like this. Nup. What we need, and what they need, is a safe place to find our out breath, to let the energy connected to that feeling move through us and out of us so we can rest. 
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But how? First, don’t take big feelings personally. They aren’t a reflection on you, your parenting, or your child. Big feelings have wisdom contained in them about what’s needed more, or less, or what feels intolerable right now. Sometimes it might be as basic as a sleep or food. Maybe more power, influence, independence, or connection with you. Maybe there’s too much stress and it’s hitting their ceiling and ricocheting off their edges. Like all wisdom, it doesn’t always find a gentle way through. That’s okay, that will come. Our kids can’t learn to manage big feelings, or respect the wisdom embodied in those big feelings if they don’t have experience with big feelings. 
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We also need to make sure we are responding to them in the moment, not a fear or an inherited ‘should’ of our own. These are the messages we swallowed whole at some point - ‘happy kids should never get sad or angry’, ‘kids should always behave,’ ‘I should be able to protect my kids from feeling bad,’ ‘big feelings are bad feelings’, ‘bad behaviour means bad kids, which means bad parents.’ All these shoulds are feisty show ponies that assume more ‘rightness’ than they deserve. They are usually historic, and when we really examine them, they’re also irrelevant.
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Finally, try not to let the symptoms of big feelings disrupt the connection. Then, when calm comes, we will have the influence we need for the conversations that matter.
"Be patient. We don’t know what we want to do or who we want to be. That feels really bad sometimes. Just keep reminding us that it’s okay that we don’t have it all figured out yet, and maybe remind yourself sometimes too."
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 #parentingteens #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #neuronurtured #braindevelopment #adolescence  #neurodevelopment #parentingteens
Would you be more likely to take advice from someone who listened to you first, or someone who insisted they knew best and worked hard to convince you? Our teens are just like us. If we want them to consider our advice and be open to our influence, making sure they feel heard is so important. Being right doesn't count for much at all if we aren't being heard.
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Hear what they think, what they want, why they think they're right, and why it’s important to them. Sometimes we'll want to change our mind, and sometimes we'll want to stand firm. When they feel fully heard, it’s more likely that they’ll be able to trust that our decisions or advice are given fully informed and with all of their needs considered. And we all need that.
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 #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #adolescence 
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"We’re pretty sure that when you say no to something it’s because you don’t understand why it’s so important to us. Of course you’ll need to say 'no' sometimes, and if you do, let us know that you understand the importance of whatever it is we’re asking for. It will make your ‘no’ much easier to accept. We need to know that you get it. Listen to what we have to say and ask questions to understand, not to prove us wrong. We’re not trying to control you or manipulate you. Some things might not seem important to you but if we’re asking, they’re really important to us.❤️" 
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#neurodevelopment #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting

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