What to say to "I want to kill myself"


Active Member
Today difficult child 1 was chocking difficult child 2. difficult child 1 had to be a shadow for the rest of the day. He hates that and was hitting himself on the forehead and kicking himself. I sent him to cool down. While in his cool down spot he told me that he wants to kill himself. This is a first for me/him. I know that others on this here deal with this daily. What do you say? After he had calmed down I talked to him about how he would miss husband's birthday on Sunday and how fun that is going to be. It wasn't a long conversation and was upbeat. I didn't want to dwell on it or make it a bigger issue. If I do I know he'll start saying that to get a reaction out of me.


Mom? What's a difficult child?
For us it depends on the situation... the last time when difficult child was asking me to light her on fire she was so sad and in distress that I tried to comfort her. I usually hold her and tell her how sad we would be and that she won't always feel this way and that these feelings will go away. I tell her that she is not on earth right now like she is floating and not in control of her body or mind and I am trying to help her back down on the ground. Or some variation like that. I have also started telling her stories of other kids with BiPolar (BP) that have the same feelings and what they do in the same situation, she like that and can relate to the stories, I use a little girl named Katrina... and put her in a similar situation.

On the other hand if she is raging and is screaming, "I want to die, kill me" and I know I can't get through to her... I will usually get her in a safe spot and restrain her if we have to and we try not to even bring it up after the fact because when she is raging that intensely she really doesn't remember much after the fact.

She gets used to get violent with easy child/difficult child 2 as well, not as bad with the medications now...

Good luck sorry you have to deal with this... our difficult child used to do this on a daily basis before starting medications and it was horrible. She would sob for over an hour to let her die and it ripped our hearts out... it is so hard especially at these young ages... this has decreased thankfully...


Active Member
Thanks totoro, where do you get the stories about the other kids who are BiPolar (BP)? Do you get them from the therapist?


Mom? What's a difficult child?
I make the stories up.... ha ha. I try to make them pertain to what she is feeling at the moment. Luckily she is pretty gullible and I can tell her a story that is basically identical to something that just happened and imbellish a little and add a little drama and she believes me... But I think she wants to know about other kids like her so she finds it fascinating also. hang in there


Active Member
difficult child 1 was older when he was suicidal - I basically pointed out that if he wanted to kill himself he had to wait his turn, I had dibs first. I live with constant pain, the medications don't totally hold it so I have to get by and I also have to accept that this is as good as I'm ever going to get. However, I can't kill myself while I have my family to look after - I have responsibilities, so I've had to wait. And if I have to wait, so does he.

What I didn't say, that percolated through his skull, was that if he kills himself that leaves me with one less responsibility and hence one step closer to my goal of suicide.

Before I told him this, he had been saying repeatedly, "I just want to die, I want to kill myself," but in circumstances that made us take him seriously. of course, I also told his specialist and he had his ADs upped.

I used to counsel people over the phone and occasionally had someone suicidal. I had no way of tracking them down, no way of ever knowing if they were OK unless they rang me back. No way to save them if they HAD just taken an overdose.
I remember one woman - I could tell she was really distressed. I finally said to her, "What do you really want?"
She said, "I want to die!"
I replied, "But you're talking to me - why? There is something else you want, too."
I suggested we play a game - if she had a magic wand that would give her three wishes, what would they be? Not too surprisingly, death was not on her list of three wishes. I pointed this out to her and said, "So you don't want to die after all - you want the pain to stop. How can we make this happen?"

Her three wishes were the key. We looked at them, then tried to see if there was a way we could head her towards getting her wishes fulfilled. By giving her a goal, which SHE had helped set, she had a purpose. With a purpose she had hope.

She rang me back a month later. She had moved a long way towards resolving a lot of her problems, by working on her wishes. What her problem had been - everything had been so overwhelming she simply couldn't see any way out. The wishes helped her make a start. From there it was all her own work.

I don't know if you can adapt any of this, but who knows? It could be worth a try.



Emily, we take talk of wanting to die very, very seriously. It is something we always report to the psychiatrist. For us, it means the medications are not right, and mood instability is occurring. Your difficult child 1 is on Strattera, which is an antidepressant that can cause suicidal ideation. Furthermore, stimulants like Metadate can destabilize kids with BiPolar (BP). You really need to report this incident to the prescribing psychiatrist.


Well-Known Member
Emily, I agree with smallworld 100%. While the strategies outlined by Marg & totoro may be helpful in working through a particular episode, you do need to report any suicidal ideation to the prescribing psychiatrist. Unfortunately, even children this young have made attempts to harm themselves. Please call you psychiatrist immediately.


Well-Known Member
I'm not sure any kid says that just to get a reaction out of a parent. It's an unusual thing for a child to say, unless he is hurting BADLY. I would quietly tell his psychiatrist, and, if it were me, I'd question the medications. He's on two medications for ADHD, and ADHD medications, even one, can make Early Onset Bi-Polar (EOBP) worse. Straterra is especially bad for BiPolar (BP), but, until my child was stable, which this child obviously isn't, I wouldn't even worry about medicating ADHD. Often it turns out to be childhood mania anyways. Since your little one seems like he may have Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), you might want to take the older one to a neuropsychologist for a complete screening. They do more testing than regular psycologists or Psychiatrists, and can often pinpoint things that others can't because they take a lot of time with the kids. My son was misdiagnosed with both ADHD and bipolar. He is on the Spectrum. He would say "I should die" a lot, because he was both frustrated and because he didn't know how to communicate any better, even after his speech got good. We tried to help him by asking him if he was frustrated, and told him to say "I'm frustrated" rather than "I want to die." For him, it worked. We haven't heard the wish to die for years. He is also doing really well since he didn't need all the medications he was on (there are no medications for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)), and because he is getting appropriate interventions and understanding. He is almost, um, mild-mannered!!! And he started out frustrated, angry, and a big rager. I'd want another opinion and another evaluation. As for what to say, it really is hard to know since nobody knows if he means it, if he just doesn't know how to express his frustration, or if there is another reason. I always tell the doctor if I hear those words. I take them seriously. Good luck.

timer lady

Queen of Hearts
We have always taken thoughts, talk & self harming behaviors very seriously around here.

When the tweedles were young & would express this level of distress, I had to search what was behind this. A child can be so very overwhelmed by feelings that the only answer is to die.

Having said that, I would spend time with kt or wm & tell them what I thought they were telling me. "kt, it seems that you are feeling really sad - what's making you so sad? wm, you appear angry - has something happened at school today?"

It wasn't always successful, however it is a place to start. I called for help when I actually witnessed escalating/out of control self harming behaviors that continued for any length of time.

I think our difficult children, as a whole, struggle to sort out the many little emotions that feed into that "wanting to die" feeling.


Going Green
Fortunately, we haven't had that too much with difficult child. Most of the times though we've talked to him either at that time or later when he's more calm.......depended on what was happening at the time. There have been times though that it seemed he was pretty serious. On one occasion I made an emergency call to his therapist and the last time I took him to the ER where a doctor talked to him and he was ultimately admitted to a facility. Even at your difficult child's age, I wouldn't take it too lightly but at the same time, you have to walk that tightrope and decide if it's something you can talk to difficult child about or if you need to take it a step further. I would think that at that age, sometimes it's just that the kids don't have the language or ability to express their feelings other than saying things like that. I know it's hard. Sending gentle hugs.


Active Member
I have been dealing with this with my difficult child off and on since he was 6. The first time he became suicidal was when he started Rhitalin - bad, horrible move - but this was 10 years ago, and most doctors. I encountered back then labeled any behavior problems as ADD. None the less, when a 6 year old talks of suicide, especially repeatedly, there is something quite wrong with the medications and their brain chemistry. I had to actually have him hospitalized at that time, because he was so unstable. ( I choose day hospital because he was so little.)

Over the years, the suicidal talk comes and goes, and especially escalates in times of mania. Again, obviously a clue that the medications are not working if he is manic. He has been hospitalized 3 times, and those 3 times were because he is suicidal. That being said, he still screams things about wanting to kill himself in times of great distress, and I always say to him that this is a serious statement, and one that warrants a visit to the Dr. if he is indeed serious. I then remind him that I love him very much, and in no uncertain terms am I going to let anything happen to him, including letting him take his own life. This usually works...because it causes him to feel safe...if he cannot get himself under control, then he knows I will place him in a spot where he is safe until he gains his rationale back.


Well-Known Member
You should ask him right then and there (later is ok now because that time has passed) if he is serious about this statement. If he is, take him to the emergency room. He needs to know that all threats of harm, whether to himself or to others, is going to be met with full protection.


Mom? What's a difficult child?
I guess I should have said the obvious that these things are always reported to psychiatrists etc. Our psychiatrist in Chicago said not to make a big deal out of it... I don't know if I always agree with that??? But here where we live going to the hospital is not an option... we have one of the biggest shortages for psychiatrists in the nation and we have been told by the Hospital and by our Pediatrician to not take her, to call pediatrician. first. We have an emergancy supply of Valium if she gets manic or out of control rages. So I think sometimes it depends on one's situation and unfortunately resources available.

I also sometimes think with the young ones it is different than when they are older... I take my difficult child's depression very seriously but I try to let her know it will go away and I watch her like a hawk to see that it does go away. If these thoughts were not going away each time I would be on the plane flying to Chicago and demanding some changes...

hope you are having a better day...


Active Member
Maybe the psychiatrist saying to not make a big deal of it was intended as, "Don't go wailing around the house wringing your hands and making a loud noise about it." But it always needs to be taken seriously. Even if five minutes later the kid is smiling happily and playing a game with another child, AT THAT MOMENT they felt suicidal.
With my phone callers - I had no chance to tell anyone. And fortunately I wasn't in the position of one of my colleagues, who was on the other end of the phone when someone rang and said, "I've just taken an overdose, I'm not changing my mind, I just didn't want to die alone."

Kids DO feel that bad, but don't always understand the finality of death and choices to die. And when a kid feels that bad, the sense of powerlessness they feel, at that moment, is extreme. Definitely tell the therapist, even if the chid is apparently over it a short time later. It's always worth a mention. For us, we dealt with it at that moment with difficult child 1 but then organised an emergency appointment with the doctor. In our son's case, upping the dose of Zoloft did the trick for him. It was enough to help him work through his feelings without them overwhelming him too much. But I know this is not an option for everybody - it wouldn't work with me, for example. Probably not for difficult child 3 either, since both of us have adverse reactions to antidepressants.

I do agree that it's vital that the child's doctors be quietly informed, preferably quickly. No child should be feeling that bad.

One more point - bringing up the subject of feeling suicidal is NOT going to put the idea into their heads, as a rule. Often the reaction is one of relief, that at last they can talk about feeling that bad. Talking about it is always better than letting them feel alone and bottling it up. If you keep skipping around the topic you may miss a chance to sort out a serious problem before it becomes final. But if you bring up the subject, they may either say, "Yes! I feel that bad! How did you know?" or they could say, "No way! I'd never do that!" and you've hopefully helped them put their pain into a more appropriate perspective. But one thing I'm sure you won't hear - "Hmm, that's a good idea, thanks for suggesting it."

One final rule you can introduce, to someone determined to commit suicide - "Don't leave a mess for someone else to have to clean up." That includes emotional fallout. It also includes a near miss, leaving the subject permanently brain-damaged but aware. You're even worse off but now you can never finish the job. A walk through the outcome for other people can be a short, sharp lesson. But if you think it won't work - don't go there.

My suggestions are definitely not intended to replace expert intervention. They're only something to pull out when you can't get the help you need right then.