Disciplining after suicide attempt by daughter.


New Member
My 16 yr old daughter gets released tomorrow from the psychiatric department at our local hospital, she's been in there for almost 6 days. She ate lots of pills and cut herself. It came as a surprise. We are making our home as suicide-safe as possible now. My wife and I spend four hours a day driving to and from to visit her, and are generally scared about her coming home. In the last year we have noticed her being depressed trying to identify with other depressed kids, wanting to dress depressed, unable to be happy or except complements, and living in the shadow of her two younger sisters who consistently achieve in are praised for it. I dealt with depression as a child, I assumed it was normal because I had a pretty rough fatherless child hood. I was a bad kid and I payed for that in my 20's, hard lessons. I am fairly old school and discipline oriented and right now I am overwhelmed with the dichotomy of being scared for my daughter and hurt that she would want to take her life, and being a pissed about the Atom bomb she has just dropped on our family. The therapists coddle every meeting and maintain that this is not my daughters fault at all and that she has depression, and is not capable of processing these feelings on their own. They suggest that I need to chose my words so as not to offend or make her uncomfortable. I'm baffled. She seems to like the idea of us being in check and having to make sure everything is just so as to coddle her every step of the way. This doesn't seem to reflect real life to me. The only thing that has ever worked for me was buckling down and facing problems head-on. Working harder. To my knowledge responsibility is something you cannot avoid in life, unless you wanter either live in jail, or in section 8 housing waiting for your crazy check, having a nurse stop by to coddle. Life is tough.

My daughter has never used drugs or alcohol. She shows no interest in boys. She is awkward. Acne. Social interaction issues. Lots of problems to work through. I've wrestled with her and she is strong! I am considering MMA as a new program for her. My wife is just as confused as I am and although the hospital is very attentive to our daughter, they have left us alone and we feel helpless and are seeking the tools to make all the right choices. At first I feel like we have failed her, but our other kids are in honors classes with straight A's, very well adjusted. I just don't know.


Well-Known Member
She is mentally ill. I don't feel it is appropriate to punish anyone for that. The only thing I'd do is tell her she has to keep seeing a therapist and maybe you and wife want to also get into therapy to understand depression better. It is not a choice and a suicide attempt is nothing to brush off.

I would stop the old school ideas that thought depression is a choice and try to make sure she gets support so that she can heal and go on to be successful.

I suggest you don't compare her to your other children. I was the family dummy and, trust me, it hurt and I felt like a failure.

I also suffered from suicidal depression and got healthy by getting the right help. I would be gentle. You sure dont want a repeat of this. She isn't bad. She is ill.

I'm so sorry for your family. You did not make her sick, but as parents of a minor, I feel it is best if you help her.


Well-Known Member
I'm so sorry for what your family is going through. I don't blame you for being angry. You love her and you think how could she hurt me this way! You mentioned your other high achieving kids. Honors classes may be beyond her abilities. Make sure she knows you love her for her unique self and talents. I have students whose parents constantly compare them to their siblings and expect a little too much. For example, one of my students is miserable whenever he's at home because his brother is excelling in medical school, but he wants to major in computer science. His parents cannot accept that. Another one of my students has a dad who told her she ruined her life because she got a C in calculus. Another student said his parents haven't spoken to him in two weeks because it's clear he won't be getting a scholarship. Both his sisters got full paid scholarships. Some kids need to learn what they are good at and be proud of it. It's ok for some kids if they go to a second tier university instead of a tier one, just as long as the school is accredited. Is your daughter involved in dance or horseback riding? She will find what she's good at. Now days, it seems the schools are pushing the idea of being thin. They have demonized fast food and being overweight. That just puts unrealistic pressure on some kids, especially girls. High school can have a brutal social environment. Ask her doctors about tetracycline or sumycin for the acne. Creams and cleaners don't help at that age. At some schools, there is a hatred of girls who can afford the UGG boots and D & Burke purses. At other schools, you're a nobody if you can't afford those things. It's a hard life at that age. Do everything the therapist tells you and let her know you live her for who she is, and that there is nothing she could do that would ever change that.


What next?
Oh no. I am so sorry to hear this. The pit of despair you and your wife must be in is heartbreaking. I am in a similar bind with one of mine. His is a different league than depression, although he has that too. But I know what you mean about having "near-typical" children who are much easier. And you think why do I have one who isn't? What did we do? You said it about the Atom bomb. That resentment is completely natural, and won't help the situation by feeling guilty. One of the things I found most helpful here is the idea that our feelings are there for a reason. They are not shameful. They are human reactions to situations. And this one is so, so difficult. I understand your frustration of having to alter your ideas of discipline to fit the child. What I learned from parenthood is that there is no one size fits all. Different children require different methods.
I agree about family counseling. It will help you learn tools that will make relating to each other easier and less like walking on eggshells.
You two are doing all the right things. You so clearly love your daughter and want to help her. I know she knows this. Your actions prove it. Thankfully she did not succeed in ending her life. Make sure she knows that you know it's not her fault that she has these demons in her head. But they can be overcome.
This is something huge, although it may sound hocus pocus. I can't emphasize enough he importance of diet and amino acids for brain function. Vegetables. There more the better. Cut out sugar. Cut out dairy. These will help skin issues. Fresh air, regular exercise. Not as replacement for treatment, but a boost.
Being 16 is so hard for kids who suffer from mental illness. She sounds like a sensitive soul who may do much better in a different environment.
My son also felt like he was in the shadow of his siblings. That is such a horrible thing to observe as a parent. Talk as much as you can.
She will be delicate for a while. But you can overcome this as a family. Sometimes things have to hit bottom before they can go up again.
All my best to you and your family.


Active Member
Don't be a "Bull in a China Shop"!

Rather slow down, and realize she is a delicate flower which needs a gentle touch and understanding.

And rather than telling, ask... "How do you feel about that?" "Would you like to talk about it?"


100% better than I was but not at 100% yet
Sorry that you are going through this but I agree with the others.

Your daughter is very young and sounds emotionally fragile. I think it would be best that you and your wife get therapy to help you deal with her illness.

I know what it's like to have your whole life turned upside down and not being sure what to do, which way to turn and how to handle things. We all just want things to be "normal". We want our kids to be happy and well adjusted. It doesn't always work this way.

Unfortunately there is no quick fix.

Time and therapy for your daughter and your and your wife is all you can do right now.


Roll With It
depression is NOT due to being coddled. While it is great that you were able to overcome or outgrow your childhood depression, we know more about it now. We know that it truly is an illness. It is due to an imbalance in brain chemistry, NOT some personal weakness or awkwardness or lack of fortitude or strength. It needs medication and therapy and different treatment, NOT just someone to tell you to be strong, eat better and 'get over it'. Eating better can help, as can having the things that make you less of a target among your peers. But addressing the issues in your brain chemistry with medications and therapy are what is critical.

I cannot urge you strongly enough to listen to the therapists, to get over this notion of coddling, and discipline and old fashioned strength. Would you rather stick to your old fashioned notions of depression just needing strength of will and discipline and harsh reality to get over and then to plan your daughter's funeral, or would you rather get her into some good treatment, listen to the doctors, have her take the medication her brain needs and get the therapy and help she needs and then work with the therapists as a family, maybe change and learn together and grow as a family together? Be a stronger, happier family together for many many years into the future, enjoy seeing her life unfold, enjoy seeing her children grow up? Personally, I would rather grow and learn, educate myself on what depression really is, and see my child grow into an adult and thrive.

I speak from experience. It took getting my son onto three different types of medications for depression, years of therapy, and many other things for him to be happy and healthy. He is now 25 and amazing. At 16 I didn't think we would make it. I had already invested 8 years learning how his brain was wired differently, how he needed different things than his siblings, and different parenting than they did. But I can honestly say that it was worth every bit of it to be where we are now. And yes, he did spend time inpatient in hospitals, 12 weeks at one point, and it was grueling. I truly DO understand the bomb that was dropped onto your family. And how difficult it is.

Please urge them to do the DNA testing to help find the right medications for your daughter. The technology is available and reliable. Insurance pays for it. There is NO reason not to use it. It can help cut down on some of the months of trial and error of finding the right medications to treat the illness. Also remember that this IS an illness, just like arthritis or diabetes is. I don't think you would punish your daughter for having either of those,would you? You would make accommodations for them, wouldn't you? Mental illness is ONLY different because it takes place in a different organ, the one that controls much more of us.


New Member
She is home now, and we are taking it slow. Thank you all so much for the encouragement and supporting words. I have been reading and reading and I am starting to understand. I guess I just needed at first to tell someone I was mad. I was pissed. I don't want you to think that I am not extremely happy my daughter is safe and that she is alive, I am very happy. I just did not understand doctors telling me its not her fault. There were even more bad things that came from inspecting her phone. I am learning now. I am blessed to have a very understanding wife who tends to be the more nurturing and lenient parent, while I have always been discipline oriented. I am learning the value of listening and learning about this disease, depression. I guess it just sucks. I wish things were easier for my daughter. Its so hard to watch her fight herself. Its hard watching her battle this demon. At least now, she isn't in the fight alone. The whole family is helping with the safety plan and everyone is being supportive of my troubled one, even her siblings.
I think I might fill her down time with some sort of cross fit gym experience. I always liked mma and feel like she would be good at it and could be part of a team that did not value popularity, complexion or having the gift of gab. In a "get busy" style gym everyone is equal and respect is given to those who give their heart. It might be good. I'm 39, heck I might get in there with her and get back in shape!
I just want her to enjoy some part of life. I am looking into the DNA Testing, that sounds great. It seems like there is not perfect answer its just one day at a time and I need to be patient, kind, loving and supportive, while facing it all. Easier said than done, but I sure am giving it my best. I have heard that when we follow up with her outpatient care that they may recommend other resources for parents as well. I'll post updates. Thanks again everyone!


Well-Known Member
I don't know if the MMA experience would appeal to her or not, but I bet she would be thrilled to spend time with you one on one doing some kind of shared experience.


Roll With It
I am glad you are focused on healing now. The anger is a VERY normal response. I know that for many of us it is a reaction to the absolute, soul wrenching fear that having our child so threatened brings up. But until you acknowledge and deal with the anger, you cannot deal with anything else. You should be proud that you didn't get stuck in the anger phase, because it is easy to do.

The MMA stuff might be something she enjoys, or you might need to find something else if that isn't her thing. But finding something you can do together is an excellent idea. Right now she needs that time and attention, even if she pushes you away. My son used to refuse to do ANYTHING with us, even eat a meal, even respond to 'Good Morning', but it took him years to figure out that he mostly got into so much trouble because then he got long hours of chores with one of us working right next to him to make sure he actually WAS working. About a year ago he had some sort of revelation, one of those "what an idiot I was" moments, and said "Back when I was always in trouble, I needed to spend time one on one with you, dad, Grandma, Grandpa, and I know you would have done anything with me, but I didn't know how to admit that I needed that time TO MYSELF. I was SUCH an IDIOT! I could have GOTTEN PAID to do all that yardwork for Grandma that I did for free as a consequence for being a brat!"

I have to admit we did laugh about the way he said it, but it was truly a bittersweet moment. I am so glad he can admit these things. I am so glad that he can actually SEE them. I know that without his medications, he could NOT, and would still be trapped in the utter despair of his brain chemistry.

Make sure that you also take care of yourself, your wife and your other kids during this time. It is so so easy to let everyone else go by the wayside while you care for the very ill child, but everyone is important. If you don't have your basic needs, and your wife doesn't have hers, neither of you can care for anyone. And if the other kids are not cared for, and don't get their needs met, they could slide too. So it is a tricky balancing act, and this is why FAMILY therapy is an important part, as is therapy for just mom and just dad and just mom and dad. Cause if "Mom and Dad' fall apart, then the whole family does.

You have come so far. I have faith that you will come through this as a stronger family, with stronger, healthier children.


Well-Known Member
Glad things are going better... I think your question about disciplining after suicide attempt...was more about setting boundaries after this event. It is so hard...my teen used it to manipulate us in to trying to give in on certain things...instead of standing our ground.

It is a very hard place to be in. KSM


New Member
@ksm. The disciplining has been very hard. She is empowered by this new parenting method. She sees that we have fear of us offending her or making her deal with more than she can handle. This is a balancing act and we just take every situation or conversation as it comes. There are no absolutes here other than her safety, which we will not compromise.


Roll With It
You and your wife seem to have pretty good instincts. I would try to follow them. When in doubt about what to do, remember a few small things.

United Front - You MUST be on the same page with your wife on whatever is presented to the kids, especially this daughter. No matter what. You MUST back each other up.

Time - She is old enough that consequences don't have to be immediate. She can remember what she did and that she has earned the consequences when you discuss them later. Take the time to cool off and discuss the situation with your wife. This time allows YOU to cool down, think it through and choose how to handle it best. I used to be a real hothead who gave harsh punishments that I totally regretted. Then I either had to enforce them and be an ogre or back down and be wishy washy. Neither was a good option.

Consequence - Make sure that the consequence of what she did is logical. If she makes a mess, she cleans it up and cleans up something else too. That type of thing. So that the consequence is tied to the problem and makes sense. It never hurts to get a little creative with those consequences. Though after finding the three day old dinner dishes in his bed, my brother never did ignore that chore again. And no, my mom did NOT make sure they were dry before she dumped them on his unmade bed. But that might not be the best thing at first for your daughter AT THIS TIME. She is too fragile now.

Stability - She needs to know the rules are still the same and you love her enough to make her follow them, at least the safety ones. I once HORRIFIED my husband when my oldest was a toddler. Wiz asked why another child got to ride in a car without a carseat. I answered that it was because his mommy didn't love him enough to make sure he followed the safety rules and stayed buckled up. My hubby thought I was WAY out of line, but I see that issue this way today same as I did 23 years ago. Let her know that the safety rules, and consequences for breaking them, are because you love her enough to keep her safe.

Above all, focus on the positive as much as you can. Work with rewards rather than consequences. Animal behavioral training fascinates me and I think could revolutionize how we raise and educate children. I have also seen and read quite a bit about a shelter in Utah or Idaho (Best Friends is the name). They had a Nat. Geographic show for some time. IT was quite cute. They would take animals of all kinds from all over the country and work to rehabilitate them using only positive methods. I won't say it is easy, or fast, but it can work. They took in some of Michael Vick's ruined dogs and helped them. I think one of the dogs was even trained for search and rescue, though I don't know if they actually use her for that. It was incredible to watch. Techniques like these might help.

And of course she will use the system, and her fragility to get a few extras. That is human nature. Anyone would. NOT to take advantage of you, simply because at this point, a little pampering won't hurt her. It should taper off, and she should become more able and more eager to embrace life over the coming weeks and months as her treatment progresses. But it takes time. None of this is fast. She does need stability and consistency, so changing all the rules just for her isn't the best thing.

Speaking of fast, I don't know if you know this yet. The medications for depression take time to work. The DNA test will point out medications more likely to work, but there is still trial and error. It takes about six weeks at a therapeutic dose to know how the medication will work. It can take a month or more to get to that dose. The best medication advice is to start low and go slow. Start with the lowest dose you can and increase as slowly as possible. NOT to draw out her pain, but to minimize chances for problems. Also, no matter how often they tell you it is 'fine' or 'perfectly safe' or 'no big deal', do your best to NOT start 2 or more medications at one time, or to change 2 at a time. You simply cannot tell what is doing what if you you make more than one change at a time. It is such a logical thing, but I have seen so many doctors either brush it off or be totally confused by being asked how you tell which change is causing a problem if there is one after you change 2 or more things at one time?

I am sorry for writing a book, but I am kinda well known around here for that. If I haven't mentioned a Parent Report, it will be my last thing tonight. It will be an invaluable tool for you and your wife. The link in my signature will take you to the explanation. IT is a report that you write about your daughter. YOu share it where you feel appropriate with her doctors, etc... It lets you keep ALL the info at your fingertips and you can answer ANY questions immediately and without a problem. You can keep a new doctor from trying to reinvent the wheel by showing where previous docs have already tried this and it had this result, so this would be a much better thing to try. I felt it was the most powerful weapon I had in my fight to help my son.


New Member
Reading this thread made me feel like I am not alone in this struggle! How unfortunate that tragedy brings people together.

A little background....my 11 yr old son attempted to hang himself last August. Luckily we found him within a few minutes and he came through the whole ordeal with no physical or major mental deficits. He is our 4th and last child. We didn't see it coming. He was a happy active adjusted boy who seemed to roll with whatever life threw at him. Then wham! He got in trouble for telling a lie and the result was a suicide attempt.

I was so angry, and still have some anger, about what he did. I was right there with you in thinking, how are we going to discipline him after this? How will we ever be "normal"? The psychologists shrug their shoulders and say he isn't depressed. His behavioral therapist can't figure him out either. Other than he is impulsive and has now tested very positive for ADHD, he doesn't fit into any diagnosis that would indicate depression or self harming behaviors. He can't remember anything from that day or why he did it. I feel like we are walking through the dark with a book of matches that sometimes is enough to get a glimpse of the path ahead.

We were traditional parents who believed in accountability and responsibility. Tough love if you will. We have tried hard to teach our kids right from wrong. Tried to instill in them the understanding that every action has a consequence. Tried to discipline fair but strict. We thought we were good parents doing the best we could and then we find out that we can no longer parent that way.

We are in therapy and have been from the moment this happened. We've had to change our approach to everything. We had to develop safety plans and new consequences for bad decisions. And mostly, we've not had a moment when we can let our guard down. I live with the thought every day that it may happen again. My son knows the power he has over us. He knows the fear we have. There have been a few major events since his return to home and school. They have all centered around his schoolwork and grades. Our therapist has given us suggestions that we have followed, such as restricting his freedom, not allowing tv or electronic games, and even give extra chores. I feel strongly however that I am a prisoner to him. That my role as a parent has flipped and now I'm just here to facilitate his moods; Always on alert for the slightest change in behavior that is out of place. Making him accountable requires long discussions about feelings and explanations as to why he can't behave that way. It requires me as a parent not to show disappointment, only to be impassive and remind him what the rules are. That's not my opinion of parenting.