Will They Really Do It?



My son makes all sorts of threats, I don't know how seriously to take him.

I really believe he is a danger; his counselor is telling me that he is so young that he does not mean what he says. And when I tell the doctors my son says he wants to "die" and "I'm gonna kill myself" they usually do not believe me bc my son is so young, and he would not try a suicide attempt like an older person would... But he is hitting himself in the head, banging his head on the wall (that stopped only because it hurt so much, he said) and swallowing non-food objects like buttons he has chewed off his clothing or bits of plastic.
Another doctor, the head of the child psychiatric unit, said my son is only doing it for attention. What am I supposed to do, ignore him while he is hurting himself?

Has anyone experienced anything like this?

Blessings, Ev


How old is your son? does he only make these threats to you? Is there any diagnosis? Is he on any medications?
Is he old enough to explain how he is feeling?
I could not ignore my child hurting himself. Depends on his age I guess.


I think often times when a child at that age (I read he's 6 on another post) talks about dying it is more of an expression of how bad they are feeling rather than a desire to act on. Children at that age have a hard time understanding the finality of death.

When my son was 10 he started talking of killing himself. It wasn't until about a year later when he had an actual plan - a real plan, not the "I'm going to hold my breath plan" which was his first - that his doctors and I became seriously concerned. Of course we were concerned before that point because it was indicative of just how miserable he was, but the concern for his safety didn't come until the real plan came along.

My difficult child doesn't talk of killing herself, but has said many, many times that she wished she were dead. It's heartbreaking to see your child in so much pain and despair.

My completely unprofessional opinion is that I don't think you should ignore him when he's hurting himself, but you probably shouldn't "reward" the behavior either. By reward I mean, lavishing a lot of attention, etc. I've never had to restrain one of my children, but others here do to protect their children from themselves. You would need to be instructed in the proper way to do this.

By the way, I wanted to welcome you to the board. I'm glad you found us, but am sorry you had to. If you would, go to My Stuff and the top of the page and click on Profile to do a signature similar to what you see on the bottom of my post. It helps us to keep everyone's info straight.


Well-Known Member
My son used to engage in self-injurious behaviors. It is unlikely your son will kill himself at his age, but he is hurting himself, like mine did. Sometimes it is because of a psychiatric problem, but sometimes it's a neurological problem (which a Psychiatrist could easy miss--ours did), and it's hard for us to tell the difference. in my opinion seeing a neuropsychologist is a good idea. Banging his head and eating buttons could mean that he is frustrated due to his neurological deficits, rather than psychiatric problems. Once we figured out my son, and got him on the right track, his "I'm going to kill myself", headbanging, and biting himself stopped. NeuroPsychs do intensive evaluations. in my opinion you HAVE to intervene when they are hurting themselves. I don't believe they do it for attention--I think they are truly at wits end. Some of our kids can't communicate well with words so they do this to show us they want help. Finding the right kind of help and getting my son less frustrated all but eliminated the scary stuff. Good luck.


New Member
This is not behavior to ignore, in my opinion. It's a cry for help.

My 8 yr old became self-injurious this year (pulling hair, head banging, etc.) when his rages peaked and we started having to restrain him because he was being unsafe.

If you're not happy with the answer you're getting from your psychiatrist, then I would seek out another opinion...and as MidwestMom suggested, a neuropsychologist would be a great place to go for a thorough exam.

Good luck!


member since 1999
in my humble opinion, these threats most definitely do need to be taken seriously. I'd ask these docs who brush it aside exactly at what point they would consider it a threat - concussion? Intestinal problems from foreign objects? Choking on foreign objects? The doctor who feels it's just attention seeking behavior really bothers me... even if it *is*, ignoring it is not in any way, shape, or form an appropriate professional response.

thank you's first documented suicidal gesture was at the ripe old age of 6 - broke a window with the expressed intent to cut his arms with the glass. Was he *really* trying to kill himself? I doubt it. Was it a major red flag as to the extent of his distress and illness? Yes. Was it ignored by the professionals? Yep - we were given yet another behavior chart to implement. He was admitted 6 months later for suicidal/homicidal ideation after I got seriously assertive with- hospital staff.

I don't mean to scare you but I absolutely do think you are right in being concerned. You've got a 6 y/o who is injuring himself and who, I would guess, has serious issues with impulsivity. It's a bad combination and you *and* he need better guidance and a much better safety plan than "he's not old enough" or "it's attention seeking behavior".

Threats have been used by thank you manipulatively, often. There have been perhaps 1 or 2 instances where I *knew* absolutely that he was not a threat to himself. But if I had even a shadow of a doubt, he was taken immediately to a hospital ER for evaluation.

So sorry you're having to deal with- this behavior and that the professionals are not hearing you. Time to get louder and more insistent. Remember, *you* are the expert on your kiddo.


Active Member
I agree with the other responses that he could use a more thorough evaluation. Maybe it is "attention-seeking" but that doesn't mean it should be ignored. My difficult child has threatened me and his siblings with knives to get our attention, starting when he was about your difficult child's age. Was it for attention? Probably, but it doesn't mean it didn't need to be addressed.

My difficult child has also said he was going to kill himself. I never thought he actually meant it, but what if one day we did ignore it and he went ahead and crossed the line? It is not typical behavior for children this age.

We had to use the basket hold on my difficult child when he was younger for his rages. He would kick, bite, spit and throw anything he could reach. We did it for his protection, and everyone else in the house. He doesn't rage like this anymore although every once in awhile he has to be restrained.


timer lady

Queen of Hearts
Any talk of suicide, at any age, should be addressed. Like Sue's thank you, kt & wm have done all types of self harming behaviors & have been hospitalized more times than I care to count.

I'm not convinced that at the tweedles age, they completely understand the concept of suicide & death. I do know that when they are in a suicide watch, the tweedles are in a great deal of pain, confusion & have no way to sort it out. That is a crisis.

I'd be pushing for psychiatrist to take this type of thing seriously. While, at the age of 6, difficult children cannot come up with a "plan" they certainly can harm themselves.


New Member
We got through nine months of our then 13 year old claiming to be continuously suicidal and most of her psychiatrists denying that it could really be true for that length of time.

What we found later was that she was actually getting more serious with time.... at first she disclosed it to therapists, later she wouldn't disclose to anyone until she felt seriously suicidal, then she'd call 911.

Then she started contemplating many different ways to hurt herself and collecting things to achieve those goals (some of them VERY clever and scary), and finally she did try to OD on Tylenol. Fortunately they saved her in the ICU with Mucomyst treatments. Every medication has been locked up at our house for 10 months, but she stole the Tylenol from someone's locker at work. It is frightening how lethal such a common and easily obtained medication like Tylenol can be.

So, we feel that the escalation means that we must take every suicidal phase very seriously now that she has crossed that line. She's inpatient at a PRTC - and hopefully medications & therapy will help.


Active Member
At 6, they generally don't underestand the finality of death. But to talk about death like this is an indication of how bad he feels. Defiinitely take it seriously.

I agree a bit with the doctor - it IS attention-seeking, a little bit. But with good reason. He needs to be heard and doesn't feel like anyone understands. But he needs a more appropriate way of commuunicating his fe4elings and he simply may b=nott be able to express this in any other way.

What to do - try and help him express himself more appropriately. Then try to not over-dramatise this, but try to hear him.
You can fear in your heart, but don't let it show, or he will use3 your fear and his own will escalate. Listen. Show him you love him no matter what, try and find some positive things to do with him to give him some lighter things to focus on. Try to give him perspective.

I haven't got the time right now to go hunting - I've grabbed the only ten minutes I have had for several weeks - so forgive me if I get things wrong. But is he havging trouble wat school? With other kids? with staff? wityh a family member? This does need to be taken seriously. Leaving things like this leaves a kid like this believing that they deserve to be mist5reated. Because that's how the see it, even if it's not. You may need to change his environment, at least for a little while, to give him and you some respite from this stress.

I'll be home in a week - I'll be watching for you then, Ev.