Level 7- Threats of Suicide While any threat of suicide should be taken seriously, it's important to react appropriately and not allow this to become a form of manipulation or a scare tactic to get a teenager what they are wanting.
This level of threat to parenting is the most severe threat a teen can use. After all, what is the worst thing that a parent can have happen to a child?-- losing them through death. That makes this threat a very powerful one, and one that gives all the power to the teenager if not handled appropriately.
As we have discussed, the levels of increase in intensity each time. A teenager's thoughts around the level 7 threat might sound like "The threat of violence was working great until I saw my mom start walking away, calling the police and pressing charges against me. I have a friend who went in the hospital for depression and told me if I threaten to kill myself, everyone gets scared and backs off. I think I will try this tomorrow."
What are the consequences for threats of suicide? Take them seriously and escalate the consequences. If that means a 24 hour watch or hospitalization, follow through. Don't give in to the manipulation (e.g. "if you don't let me go with my friends, I'll just kill myself"). Just like you would call the police for violence, follow through with calling 911 for threats of suicide. Enlist the help of the teenagers support system-- let their friends, friends parents and teachers know that the teen is threatening suicide. When the manipulation no longer works and your teen see's that you are serious about the consequences, manipulative threats of self-harm decrease.
Remember that there's a difference between a power-struggle and self-harming threats as opposed to actual threats. If you are struggling with knowing the difference between the two, don't hesitate to call a professional therapist or doctor to assess your teen to help you in this process!
Taken from "Parenting Your Out of Control Teen" by Scott Sells
Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling. Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.