Suicidal ideation in a 'tween -- anyone seen something like this?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Rannveig, Aug 25, 2010.

  1. Rannveig

    Rannveig Member

    Odin's behavior is fine, if a bit cranky, but recently he has been having trouble falling asleep. He says he is troubled by gruesome thoughts (something about scarecrows and various horrible ways of dying) that keep him awake. A couple of times he has woken me up at night crying. And now he is also saying that he's thinking about suicide because he's not happy with his life and doesn't want to chance dying in some awful way later. He said he thought he'd use poison gas, but on closer questioning he didn't seem to have a viable plan (just as he never seems to have viable plans for any of the good, creative things he imagines doing).

    There's nothing going on in his life that would explain these feelings situationally. He has loving family and friends; he's bright and confident about his intellect. He does complain that he always gets hurt when he tries to play sports and wishes he liked sports as much as his friends do. But I know his friends are supportive and don't tease him or anything, and his father and I don't care whether he excels athletically. He's a bit awkward but nothing that would put him outside normal range.

    I'm glad he feels he can confide in me, but what he's saying has me terrified. A few years ago there was something like this -- he said he didn't feel he had anything to live for. (He was, like, 6!) He seemed to feel better after a few weeks. But now here we go again.

    Any of you have any experience with this sort of thing? Any ideas on what to say when he tells me he doesn't see any point to living? Being chronically depressed myself, and also not being a person of faith, I have trouble coming up with reasons for him to stay alive other than the fact that if he killed himself it would break my heart (and several other people's). But he shouldn't want to live for me; I want him to want to live for himself! (I should add that I don't think he's acting out my depression. I don't talk about my depression in front of my kids except in passing, and I function normally except for being tired a lot. My depression really doesn't affect my kids' lives except possibly in some really subliminal way that I can't see.)

    Thanks, Ranny
  2. nvts

    nvts Active Member

    Hi! Does Odin have an official diagnosis? With a family history of depression, plus the fact that depression runs co-morbidly with so many diagnosis, I would seriously consider having him evaluated.

    My difficult child 1 has Aspergers and has depression issues based on his inability to make kids his age feel comfortable around him. Aspies also tend to judge themselves so they're pretty harsh when it comes to "implied criticism".

    I hope he feels better soon - I hate thinking of a kid feeling so upset!

  3. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    My difficult child was turning 11 years old when things started for him. He would have scary dreams about people/things trying to hurt him. He aquired self harm thoughts. He was fighting his body every day - his body would tell him to hurt himself (in ways which could lead to death) and sometimes to kill me. Like your difficult child, he felt comfortable telling me about it. It got to the point that he felt he could no longer fight this battle. He did not want to hurt himself or die (he has a faith in God that told him it would be a sin to kill himself).

    I took him to a children's psychiatric hospital and asked for an evaluation. He was admitted on the spot for two weeks.

    difficult child was given the diagnosis of deep anxiety but more importantly was given tools to use to start to control the thoughts. Medications helped also. We then worked through how to recognize the start of a bad thought and how to battle it at that point. The next step was to look for triggers. A very large one for my difficult child is lack of sleep. Sometimes there are not triggers - it just comes on. So, difficult child had a PRN for panic attacks. He used the variety of tools from breathing exercises to writing down how he saw things going/how he felt, to positive imagery. He worked very hard to master these tools.

    No matter what your difficult child is struggling with, he needs to get help to fight it. The tools he gets now will help throughout life. We have been told that there is a chance that difficult child could be faced with this again as he grows but hopefully his tools will keep it from getting out of hand like this first time.

    I would agree with taking him in for an evaluation to see what the doctor thinks.

    Be very thankful that he does bring these things to you. I counted that a blessing each day of our fight. What if he didn't tell me? I would never know why something had happened (like if he followed through with jumping out a moving car or jumping from the 3rd floor balcony of the Mall of America).
  4. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Wiz has been suicidal since he was about 7. Second grade was when it started. He went from being a confident, fun but quite challenging child who did fairly well at school to being angry and in a mood that I can only describe as dark most of the time. Later we found out that his teachers were telling him that he couldn't really be smart because he didn't get 100% of every paper correct. The work sheets were on about a kdg - first grade level and he was working on a 4th grade level in math and a 12th grade level in reading and grammar. His teacher couldn't spell at all so it was Wiz' job to proofread everything she sent to parents or passed out to kids. If he missed a mistake or didn't correct it properly he lost the after lunch recess.

    He tried to kill himself on two different occasions. We took him to Children's (in the city we lived in then, very well respected but useless for this at that time) and the ER doctor that came to see us (three hours after we got there) told us he was fine and no danger to himself and to stop being so hard on him. At the time we put very few expectations on him at home other than that he couldn't hurt anyone because he seemed so fragile emotionally. He had a LOT of wild plans to kill himself, like strapping a bomb on his back or a rocket on his back and setting it off. His attempts were taking a 10-15 foot run, full tilt, into a concrete pillar and into a wooden support at the corner of a wall in our living room. He hit HARD, both times. Major lump came up about 2 1/2 inches and he had headaches for several weeks after each attempt. He gave us no warning he was going to do it, just out of the blue started running with his head down like he was charging something.

    He has MAJOR issues with depression and has spent quite a few years cutting himself. We found very few ways to stop this, until his Gma said she would stop if he would stop.

    He was on the right medications at the time. He takes luvox, strattera and trazodone. Luvox is a much stronger version of prozac, trialed because both my mom and I have responded better to prozac than to any other SSRI and several SSRIs had not helped Wiz much. Strattera is an antidepressant that is an SSRI but works on adhd issues. Trazodone is crucial if he needs sleep - he inherited the insomnia that I got from my father. It is also an older antidepressant. ALL of these have antidepressant properties even if they are primarily rx's for other things. It takes all 3 of them to keep him out of major depression.

    He has written probably hundreds of journal entries and thoughts on scraps of paper about wanting to be dead. One of them somehow wound up being turned in with an English assignment the year he had my 9th grade English teacher. She was beside herself with worry, even called both my parents AND me from her home that night. Wiz was already living with my parents. We managed to reassure her that he was okay and writing it down was a way for him to get it out of his head. If he doesn't write things down they go round and round in his head endlessly. If he jots them down then he can move on to other htings. He went so far as to apologize to her and explained that it was his way to get it out of his head, just like we did.

    I will not be surprised if we have a couple of attempts in the future. Thankfully he likes the way he feels on medications FAR more than he likes it off medications, so there is rarely any fuss over taking his medications. He is also quite sure that if he combines his medications with illegal medications (meaning medications a doctor or Gma or I give him) they will interact and kill him. I started pushing that thought when he was quite a young child, that illegal drugs would kill you, esp if you mix it with any medicines the doctor or Mom gives you. I find it shocking that he believes this, but he really does. Of all things to make an impact and prove that some of our parenting wasn't horrible, I like that one more than many others he could have chosen to keep!

    Kids can be depressed at almost any age. Your child NEEDS to be evaluated by a psychiatrist and to also work with a therapist he can really connect with. Both of these are crucial for dealing with depression.
  5. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Well, how about all the fun school functions, dances, proms, graduation, college, career....
    Family events and outings, vacations, birthdays, etc....
    Future freinds and his very own family some day. Children and a wife.

    He has many things to look forward to! It is important to point out that he will feel differently throughout life. He may feel an outcast with sports now, but ask him how many adults he knows that are on a sports team? It just is not that important when he is older.
  6. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    I agree with Susie -- your son needs an evaluation with a child psychiatrist ASAP. Thoughts of suicide by anyone, no matter what the age, need to taken seriously. If he feels that hopeless, treatment is what needs to happen.

    Hugs to your hurting mommy heart.
  7. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Busywind has a good idea also of pointing out the good things that are in life for him now and coming up. Just one word of caution though, my difficult child was really afraid of college, getting a job and supporting a family. Those were not happy things for him to think about at that time. They overwhelmed him and he couldn't grasp how he would be able to accomplish them. I do believe they are important for a child to think forward to as a happy thing so I sat down with him and told him that he was not ready for any of those things. That no one his age was ready for them. As he goes to middle and high school, he will be preparing to graduate. Once he graduates, he will be ready for college. College will teach him the skills to get the job he would like and once he has that job, he can support a family. It will happen but it will take time. It is important for kids who worry about the future to know that they are such and such an age and will grow and gain tools before that future gets here. I think that helped him and now the future isn't so scary - he knows he will not just wake up one day and have the responsibilities of an adult, that it is a process to work through.
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I had suicidal thoughts as young as him. I also have a mood disorder although I didn't know it at the time. Nothing really bad was going on for me either, but I could never control my moods. Sometimes I just got depressed for no reason at all and it could last for up to a year and it seems the only way out is to die. You don't REALLY want to want to feel better. I don't know if this is helpful, but I do hope you get your dear son some help. There are good medications that can help pull him out of this. In a depression, I would have some scary thoughts, but medications have held the depression at bay for me for a very long time.

    Suggestion: Clinical depression is a PHYSICAL disorder. It is soooooooo unhelpful to hear "But your life is good" "But we love you" "You need to change your attitude" "Just snap out of it" "But you have so much to look foward to." Depressed people know this, but still can't get rid of the horrible feeling of depression. I'm in a group and all of us have mood disorders (and some have other stuff too). We just recently were talking about how our parents, when we were kids, would get annoyed with us and try to snap us out of our funk, as if we COULD. in my opinion it's the worst thing you can do. It always made me feel ashamed. Anxiety, which I also have, is far easier to treat then depression (although they often go together). While anxiety can be very successfully treated with positive therapy, it doesn't work for clinical depression. At least, not for anyone I know who ever had it. Anxiety/depression are two very different disorders, even though they can co-exist.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2010
  9. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Andy and MWM have some very good points.

    There is very little you can say to a person who is depressed that will help. Until the brain chemistry is better they CAN'T stop being depressed. Talk therapy can help, but it cannot conquer it alone. The best way to handle depression is with a combination of medications and talk therapy. This isn't just me talking, it is a recommendation of many doctors and organizations that do research and certification.
  10. Rannveig

    Rannveig Member

    Thank you for all the very helpful responses. As a unipolar depressive I do know not to insist that he be happy because his life is good. I definitely don't get angry with Odin for having the feelings he does; I relate to them all too well (at least the ones about life being pointless; I don't have daymares about scarecrows). I mentioned in my post the fact that he has a good life just to make clear that I do think his problem is chemical and not situational. I only wish his feelings related to something in his environment that I could actually change.

    I appreciated your ideas on things to say to try to cheer Odin up, and equally I appreciated your suggestions as to what might be behind his frightening thoughts (pathological anxiety, for example). You definitely gave me some good approaches -- even where you disagreed with each other, I definitely saw value in each and every post. Most of all I appreciated your stories. I lurk a fair amount and so was familiar with some of the stories, but you helped me see some new angles and also feel much less alone. You really are a wonderful community here!

    Where I live it's going to be hard to find a good psychiatrist, but I'll start the process (he actually asked me to last night; I've always told him that was an option if he wished) and try to update as things move along. I only hope that someday I can help someone here as you all have helped me.

    All best wishes to you and your difficult children.