POWWWW!!!!! That’s life hitting you with a right hook that you never saw coming. This is what my husband and I felt when we received our son Marc’s diagnosis of Aspergers just over two weeks ago. Aspergers is a form of Autism that is considered to be on the high-functioning end of the spectrum. Initially we started pursuing psychiatric help for him due to symptoms of depression. After moving to Hawaii and starting middle school, he had some trouble with bullying. Then he wasn't making friends at school, was having problems sleeping, and was socially isolating himself. He even expressed to me that he was having thoughts about suicide. Now that is another punch to the gut! Not to mention, a tough thing for any parent to hear. But it is important that you LISTEN to your child so that you can get them help.
When your child is suicidal the most important thing is their safety. You’re also going to have to ask them some tough questions. First ask them how they plan to commit suicide. That way you have a clear understanding of how they plan to do it and then you can take away their means. Then ask how long they have been feeling this way. A lot of the time we are busy attending to other members of our families (for me that’s my bipolar child) that we lose focus on the other children.
Next ask if they have hurt themselves. This can be tricky because at this age they can hurt themselves in any number of ways through cutting, pinching skin, severely scratching skin, burning skin, punching skin or hitting yourself or banging your head. The are also smart, as they can hide these behaviors in places where clothes cover. If they say they do hurt themselves ask them to show you where. Take note and see how fresh the wounds are. This can tell you how long the behavior has been going on.
Observe their moods and behaviors. Listen to what they have to say. If they are telling you that they are having a hard time and they need help, they are. It’s not a teenager thing, or a young child thing, and they will grow out of it. They wont. It’s a chemical imbalance in their mind and they need help.
Once Marc expressed this to me I took away his means. He told me he thought about asphyxiating himself with a belt. So I took away all his belts and had a long chat with him. In this chat we discussed all of the above. And after our long chat he felt better and so did I. But if I felt that he was unstable as in he was self harming, he had been feeling depressed, and he had a plan as was ready to carry it out, I would have taken him on the spot to the emergency room to be admitted. This is what should happen IMMEDIATELY if your child has suicidal thoughts, a plan, and the means to carry out the plan. Then it’s “Marc get into the car. We are off to see the Dr.”
Now we did see the Dr. When we had the discussion it was at 8pm at night. But the very next day we had a same day appointment with his pediatrician, who in turn recommended an amazing child psychologist and psychiatrist. After all the assessments and evaluations we did not receive a depression diagnosis but we received the Aspergers one - which as a parent isn't something that I was wanting to hear. Realizing that your child has a disorder not a diagnosis was tough. But it is something that we are learning to come to terms with. Once Marc got into therapy, I am happy to report a lot of his suicidal thoughts has diminished and he is back to his happy-go-lucky self. But this doesn't mean I have dropped my guard. I still routinely ask how he is doing and how he is feeling. I still ask if he thinks about hurting himself or others. I still observe his sleeping patterns, his mood and behaviors. I do all of this because thats my job, because I am his mom. Most importantly I do it out of love.