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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

Anxiety is a sign that the brain has registered threat and is mobilising the body to get to safety. One of the ways it does this is by organising the body for movement - to fight the danger or flee the danger. 

If there is no need or no opportunity for movement, that fight or flight fuel will still be looking for expression. This can come out as wriggly, fidgety, hyperactive behaviour. This is why any of us might pace or struggle to sit still when we’re anxious. 

If kids or teens are bouncing around, wriggling in their chairs, or having trouble sitting still, it could be anxiety. Remember with anxiety, it’s not about what is actually safe but about what the brain perceives. New or challenging work, doing something unfamiliar, too much going on, a tired or hungry body, anything that comes with any chance of judgement, failure, humiliation can all throw the brain into fight or flight.

When this happens, the body might feel busy, activated, restless. This in itself can drive even more anxiety in kids or teens. Any of us can struggle when we don’t feel comfortable in our own bodies. 

Anxiety is energy with nowhere to go. To move through anxiety, give the energy somewhere to go - a fast walk, a run, a whole-body shake, hula hooping, kicking a ball - any movement that spends the energy will help bring the brain and body back to calm.♥️
.
.
.
#parenting #anxietyinkids #childanxiety #parenting #parent
This is not bad behaviour. It’s big behaviour a from a brain that has registered threat and is working hard to feel safe again. 

‘Threat’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what the brain perceives. The brain can perceive threat when there is any chance missing out on or messing up something important, anything that feels unfamiliar, hard, or challenging, feeling misunderstood, thinking you might be angry or disappointed with them, being separated from you, being hungry or tired, anything that pushes against their sensory needs - so many things. 

During anxiety, the amygdala in the brain is switched to high volume, so other big feelings will be too. This might look like tears, sadness, or anger. 

Big feelings have a good reason for being there. The amygdala has the very important job of keeping us safe, and it does this beautifully, but not always with grace. One of the ways the amygdala keeps us safe is by calling on big feelings to recruit social support. When big feelings happen, people notice. They might not always notice the way we want to be noticed, but we are noticed. This increases our chances of safety. 

Of course, kids and teens still need our guidance and leadership and the conversations that grow them, but not during the emotional storm. They just won’t hear you anyway because their brain is too busy trying to get back to safety. In that moment, they don’t want to be fixed or ‘grown’. They want to feel seen, safe and heard. 

During the storm, preserve your connection with them as much as you can. You might not always be able to do this, and that’s okay. None of this is about perfection. If you have a rupture, repair it as soon as you can. Then, when their brains and bodies come back to calm, this is the time for the conversations that will grow them. 

Rather than, ‘What consequences do they need to do better?’, shift to, ‘What support do they need to do better?’ The greatest support will come from you in a way they can receive: ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time?’ ‘You’re the most wonderful kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen. How can you put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
Big behaviour is a sign of a nervous system in distress. Before anything, that vulnerable nervous system needs to be brought back home to felt safety. 

This will happen most powerfully with relationship and connection. Breathe and be with. Let them know you get it. This can happen with words or nonverbals. It’s about feeling what they feel, but staying regulated.

If they want space, give them space but stay in emotional proximity, ‘Ok I’m just going to stay over here. I’m right here if you need.’

If they’re using spicy words to make sure there is no confusion about how they feel about you right now, flag the behaviour, then make your intent clear, ‘I know how upset you are and I want to understand more about what’s happening for you. I’m not going to do this while you’re speaking to me like this. You can still be mad, but you need to be respectful. I’m here for you.’

Think of how you would respond if a friend was telling you about something that upset her. You wouldn’t tell her to calm down, or try to fix her (she’s not broken), or talk to her about her behaviour. You would just be there. You would ‘drop an anchor’ and steady those rough seas around her until she feels okay enough again. Along the way you would be doing things that let her know your intent to support her. You’d do this with you facial expressions, your voice, your body, your posture. You’d feel her feels, and she’d feel you ‘getting her’. It’s about letting her know that you understand what she’s feeling, even if you don’t understand why (or agree with why). 

It’s the same for our children. As their important big people, they also need leadership. The time for this is after the storm has passed, when their brains and bodies feel safe and calm. Because of your relationship, connection and their felt sense of safety, you will have access to their ‘thinking brain’. This is the time for those meaningful conversations: 
- ‘What happened?’
- ‘What did I do that helped/ didn’t help?’
- ‘What can you do differently next time?’
- ‘You’re a great kid and I know you didn’t want this to happen, but here we are. What can you do to put things right? Do you need my help with that?’♥️
As children grow, and especially by adolescence, we have the illusion of control but whether or not we have any real influence will be up to them. The temptation to control our children will always come from a place of love. Fear will likely have a heavy hand in there too. When they fall, we’ll feel it. Sometimes it will feel like an ache in our core. Sometimes it will feel like failure or guilt, or anger. We might wish we could have stopped them, pushed a little harder, warned a little bigger, stood a little closer. We’re parents and we’re human and it’s what this parenting thing does. It makes fear and anxiety billow around us like lost smoke, too easily.

Remember, they want you to be proud of them, and they want to do the right thing. When they feel your curiosity over judgement, and the safety of you over shame, it will be easier for them to open up to you. Nobody will guide them better than you because nobody will care more about where they land. They know this, but the magic happens when they also know that you are safe and that you will hold them, their needs, their opinions and feelings with strong, gentle, loving hands, no matter what.♥️
Anger is the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. It has important work to do. Anger never exists on its own. It exists to hold other more vulnerable emotions in a way that feels safer. It’s sometimes feels easier, safer, more acceptable, stronger to feel the ‘big’ that comes with anger, than the vulnerability that comes with anxiety, sadness, loneliness. This isn’t deliberate. It’s just another way our bodies and brains try to keep us safe. 

The problem isn’t the anger. The problem is the behaviour that can come with the anger. Let there be no limits on thoughts and feelings, only behaviour. When children are angry, as long as they are safe and others are safe, we don’t need to fix their anger. They aren’t broken. Instead, drop the anchor: as much as you can - and this won’t always be easy - be a calm, steadying, loving presence to help bring their nervous systems back home to calm. 

Then, when they are truly calm, and with love and leadership, have the conversations that will grow them - 
- What happened? 
- What can you do differently next time?
- You’re a really great kid. I know you didn’t want this to happen but here we are. How can you make things right. Would you like some ideas? Do you need some help with that?
- What did I do that helped? What did I do that didn’t help? Is there something that might feel more helpful next time?

When their behaviour falls short of ‘adorable’, rather than asking ‘What consequences they need to do better?’ let the question be, ‘What support do they need to do better.’ Often, the biggest support will be a conversation with you, and that will be enough.♥️
.
.
#parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #anxietyinkids

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This