Enlist Parental Cooperation
- Invite the parents’ perspective. State what you have noticed in their child’s behavior (rather than the results of your assessment) and ask how that fits with what they have observed.
- Advise parents to remove lethal means from the home while the child is possibly suicidal, just as you would advise taking car keys from a youth who had been drinking. Document the fact that you had this conversation in your notes. Consider having the parent sign a form acknowledging the conversation.
- Comment on how scary this behavior is and how it complicates the life of everyone who cares about this young person.
- Acknowledge the parent’s emotional state, including anger, if present.
- Ask, "What it would take to help you understand the seriousness of the situation?" (Develop a form for them to sign that outlines that you have discussed suicide as an issue for their child and steps to be taken.)
- Acknowledge that no one can do this alone - appreciate their presence.
- Listen for myths of suicide that may be blocking the parent from taking action.
- Explore reluctance to accept a mental health referral, address those issues, explain what to expect.
- Work with parents to explore how and where their child got this idea in ways that open up communication and allow for honest dialogue.