A family that my husband and I know fairly well recently had to make a judgment call that no parent would ever wake up thinking he or she would have to make in a typical day: Is our child in enough danger to herself that we need to immediately take her to the emergency room or can we wait until her psychiatrist calls us back?
Suicide is already an emotionally weighted and triggering topic, but when it is placed in the context of the community we live in, the topic is immediately charged. We live in a highly conservative area that is predominately white and Christian. And while I do not necessarily think this is a bad thing — just like I don’t think it is necessarily a good thing, either — I do think that the characteristic lends itself easily to a groupthink mentality.
These parents are good parents. They’ve done everything right as far as taking care of their daughter. She has had access to mental health care and she takes her medications. They are open about depression and coping strategies. If someone were to go down a checklist of all the behaviors an involved parent ought to take when raising a child with severe depression, you’d see that these parents were doing all of them.
And yet? The suicide ideation still haunted them. It still permeated the thoughts of their daughter. It reached the point of her making plans and coming up with different strategies in order to be successful. Thankfully, it was because of this open relationship between this daughter and her parents that compelled her to reach out to her mother.
Imagine a military team being activated for a mission and you’d have an exact idea of what took place in my friends’ home that day. The father was enlisted, the psychiatrist was called, the mental health hospitals were Googled, and the mother sat with their daughter while she slowly unpacked all her feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. The psychiatrist said to bring her in and medications were adjusted while she begrudgingly admitted her depression had worsened over the last month, the ideation becoming a legitimate plan over the last two weeks. Her mother noticed her daughter’s stubbornness set in on the drive home and knew she no longer wanted to fight for herself. Her child admitted that there was no point in taking medication any longer. There was no point in trying.
Stubbornness can be a real bitch when dealing with depression.
My friend realized that her daughter more than likely wouldn’t be safe at home even though she told the psychiatrist she would be, and so they drove to one mental health clinic. Unfortunately, the clinic wouldn’t see her daughter because they had insurance and this particular clinic only took patients who were uninsured. They referred my friends to the other mental health clinic. This clinic also turned them away because they didn’t have an appointment.
Think about that.
My friend’s daughter didn’t have the courtesy to let her parents know when her depression escalate to such a degree that she’d begin planning her suicide so that they could make an appointment for her at a mental health clinic. When my friend expressed her frustration about this and pointed out that they were supposed to take walk-ins, she was told that the walk-ins had appointments. But, they reassured her, even though her daughter was in crisis she wasn’t in an emergency; if she was in an emergency than my friend ought to take her directly to the emergency room. They also offered my friend a crisis hotline number.
By this time my friend decided to take her daughter home. Her daughter had slowly become less belligerent and more accepting of the medication change anyway, and my friend recognized that her daughter probably did not need the help of the mental health clinic at this point. But what if she did? What happens to the teenagers who are somewhere between crisis and emergency?
Suicide is currently the third leading cause of death of young adults (ages 15-24) in the United States. I have always felt — and my friend’s experience confirms it — that if a teenager needs immediate help, he or she is more likely to go to a casual mental health clinic than to an emergency room. The moment my friend mentioned the ER to her daughter, her daughter said, “Hell no.” All resources must be made available for teenagers who are contemplating suicide. Nobody should be turned away because they don’t have an appointment.
Thankfully, this family spent the rest of the evening exhausted but playing games together and they are much more hopeful now. Their daughter had been prescribed a sedative to help her sleep through the night which helped almost immediately. She told her mother the next morning that just having slept well made her feel like she had strength again to fight the darkness. Most importantly, she saw that she had people in her life who care for her and who mobilized quickly to get her the help she needed.
All of us have a responsibility in creating a network to help children and young adults feel safe and supported regardless of the battles they are fighting. No appointments necessary.
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3 thoughts on “Suicide Ideation: Hovering Between Crisis and Emergency”
i danced this insane dance for years with my son Bones. i just want to hug this family and tell them that they are not alone in this frustration. i am sitting here in tears… i want to hold their child and tell her its ok.. i want to hug the parents and thank them for not giving up or giving in… i want to tell them how amazing they are.. ALL of them… you are so Right!… THERE NEEDS TO BE A BETTER PLAN, A BETTER SOLUTION, A BETTER OPTION… i was praised for years because i kept my son on “Arms Length Status” when he was like this…. and maybe from the outside world it appeared to be ok. while it may have saved his life many times, there was a lot of damage that needed to be repaired in the aftermath. what you see on the outside… is not always what it is on the inside… you write of a strong family, who should be PROUD that they are this strong… they may not feel it right now… but from someone who has been through this fire, and has finally found the other side of the flaming forest… i want to tell them, YOU ARE AMAZING! i will keep them in my prayers from someone who understands on a level that no one should ever have to… thank you for sharing, sometimes we just need to remember, and sometimes we just need to tell others that they are not alone! <3
Thank you Kerri! I will forward your message to them and I’m sure they will be so grateful to hear from someone on the other side of that fire. <3
Thank you! when i was going through this on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, i felt so alone. it is such an exasperating feeling to want and need to help your child, and have the people that are supposed to be there as support, look you in the face and say, we understand, but there is nothing we can do, because your actions or your child’s actions did not co-inside with their paperwork policies…. you have to stand there on the brink of tears, while holding it together for your child. you constantly reassure your child that everything is going to be OK, that they are not alone, that people do care, despite what they are being told in front of you, and you find this stone strength from inside that you never realized you had, and you do not know where it came from, and at that moment you do not even care to acknowledge that you have it, just to keep going. you look at your amazing child who holds your world in their hands and you want to scream, and you want to hold them so tight, and you want to make it OK and fix this, and all you can do is look them in their beautiful eyes and beg them silently to know you are not going to let go of them. when they are safe again, you just go into your closet and silently cry, and search your soul for answers that you just can not find and beg the universe or your higher power for help. a help that you are not even sure will come. you silently go in to their room and watch them sleep like you did when they were an infant and needed you for every-single thing and silently apologize to them for what ever it is your mind says at that moment, that you failed them on. you psychoanalyze every single moment from the time they were born to this moment in time, and rip your soul apart to find an answer that just is not there. then you stand in the face of the public with a pasted on smile, and that strength that you question, and talk to countless doctors, and nurses, and anyone that has ears that you think that you can get someone to assist you in helping your child. you rip open your world in the fleeting hope that someone, anyone can give you an answer, only to find out that what ever “answer” offered will only work for a minute… then you worry that while you are trying to “fix” your child’s broken pieces, that you are failing them yet again, and you are sending them the message that they are broken beyond repair, and they see it, and they silently take it in as part of their dented soul and analyse the dents as permanent part of their being that is forever broken. as a parent we have no idea how to let that child know they are not broken, that this will be OK, specifically when you do not have a time line to give them. this is the most devastating feeling of all. when your child is back to the painted on masque of happy, that they have learned to apply to appease the masses, you search their eyes and still see a frightened being that is the bravest of souls you have ever met, and you have no idea how to communicate to them how proud you are of them for still being here for this second in time.. you are afraid to bring it up, because they are smiling, and laughing, and you live in a continued state of worry. you try to tell your child that they are never alone, that you are there, and human instinct kicks in and as they grow, they try to grow apart and you want to give them freedom but you are so afraid to do so. as much as you are consumed as a parent by all of this and much, much ,much more then can be put into words, our children are fighting their own battle inside. not being able to infuse love and hope and spirit into your child is devastating and you end up feeling like you are a sub par parent. you try to convince yourself that you are not, the people that love you try to convince you that you are not, and even some of the doctors and nurses and medical professionals say the words, but you know in your heart that the snide looks, and snide remarks or the way they “explain” to you what will happen or how this can happen, screams Failure on your part as a parent. they judge your child while you try in the 3 minutes you have of their time to explain to them just how amazing your kid is, and it falls on deaf ears with scripted answers. i am sorry this is long… i just understand on so many levels it hurts my soul to know someone else is going through this. on the other side of this script… i was a child that felt this way most of my life, and it makes my soul happy to know that there are actually parents that give their all to help their child not feel so alone. Sending love <3 Ker
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