Teens and Suicide

Parent Q&A

Personal experience with teen residential treatment centers? May 1, 2021 (5 responses below)
High School for daughter with depression Feb 9, 2021 (13 responses below)
Therapist ASAP for 11 yr old son talking about suicide Aug 16, 2019 (7 responses below)
Depressed and suicidal teen Nov 15, 2017 (3 responses below)
Young teen threatening suicide in text messages Jun 25, 2017 (12 responses below)
  • My teenage daughter is going through severe depression, agoraphobia and social anxiety. She has been through the partial hospitalization program and is on meds but some bad days are still very, very bad with suicidal ideation. After crying together and riding the wave together, she said that she would consider a residential treatment program even though she is terrified of being with people outside of her immediate family. Looking briefly online is a bit terrifying as the range of experience at various sites seem to differ so much. Can anyone share with me personal experience with residential treatment centers for teenage girls? Ideally near the Bay Area as she would feel more comfortable being close to home. Thank you.

    I would recommend hiring an EC - Educational Consultant. They will help you navigate your options. Also look in to Wilderness Therapy. This might help stabilize before putting her in a therapeutic Boarding School or Residential Treatment Center.  

    The best thing to do is to get an Educational Consultant. They help you identify appropriate placements and navigate the system. One place to get help is through a Facebook group Wilderness and Residential Therapy Search. There are lots of very knowledgeable parents on there as well as Units at the top of the page with information. It’s a lot to do on your own but these resources make it possible. 

    Hello--please feel free to email me. I have experience with this. I believe you can reach me through my username, or the moderators. 

  • High School for daughter with depression

    (13 replies)

    My daughter is dealing with depression and has survived a suicide attempt. She went back to high school, 10th grade, but sadly is now dealing with memories of being molested by a middle school teacher. She also has ADHD. She is bright but is having problems with motivation and is not keeping up. The pandemic has not helped. She is on meds, doing therapy and it seems that her high school is becoming part of the problem. I have heard of Orinda Academy  and Bayhill High School but the posts  are a few years old and seem to reference boys. Does anyone have experience with these schools and girls? Are there other schools, other suggestions. She has had the most painful and  difficult year of her life and we need to find a safe supportive school for her. Help!!!!

    Could look into Holden High in Orinda.  My friend's son with ADHD, anxiety, and depression went there and had a good experience, graduating a few years ago.  I went to see him once, because we were meeting for coffee at a local cafe (and he got the time wrong), and there was a kid outside playing the guitar and helpful kids inside.  At the time they opened a few hours early and the students could hang out in the lounge.  

    Other suggestions: Some kind of exercise she enjoys.  tennis, running, bicycling, hiking. .Even following an exercise or dance routine on a screen is better than sitting around all day, but getting out in green spaces can also be very helpful. Also, meditation, guided or not. Start yourself, and ask her to join, so it is less pressure. 

    Hi, really sorry your daughter (and you) are going through this. One of my closest friends enrolled her daughter in Holden, and she has found it a really supportive environment her teen who has a range of mental health and academic challenges.

  • Our son confessed that he has been thinking about suicide several times this summer. He says he doesn't like himself or his life and wants the pain to go away. He had a traumatic birth and he and I (mom) had a challenging time with attachment in the early years. He has a history generalized anxiety, moodiness, and is easily dysregulated by hunger or lack of sleep. He's been having trouble falling asleep lately so his sleep deprivation is aggravating everything. He blames his 7yr old younger brother for all his troubles and has been physically and verbally aggressive with him on a daily basis. We're with Kaiser and we've been playing phone tag with the Richmond Psychiatry dept all week. We're willing to go outside of Kaiser. We just want to find someone asap who would be a good fit to work with him and the whole family, as necessary. Hoping to find someone in the Berkeley/Albany area if possible.


    i would advise you to keep advocating for your son at Kaiser Richmond.   All three of my kids have been seen by therapists there, including a psychiatrist.  You do have to go through a Friday morning intake program, but it is truly worth it. I was so impressed with the quality of therapists and very happy with the psychiatrist.

    Don’t allow their messy intake system to turn you off!   Once you are in the system, it is very easy to make appointments and their quality of care is very high, especially for the price. If you have to, call every day until you get through to someone and schedule that first intake appointment. Good luck, we have been there as well. 

    I hope Kaiser is responding to you immediately given your son's state. Please contact a suicide hotline if they are not.
    Kaiser's psychiatry dept should make time for him immediately given he has suicidal thoughts. Ask to talk to the department manager. In the longer term, they can also give you an outside referral through Beacon or Magellan for a psychologist or counselor as counseling is not their strong point. However, they need to be able to schedule your son right away as he is in a crisis situation.


    I cannot say enough wonderful things at the Kaiser Oakland Child Psychiatry team.  We tried Walnut Creek and Richmond and thankfully ended up with Mario Raya in Oakland.  Our daughter was suicidal and has anxiety and ADD and Mario and his team helped her through many rough times when we didn’t have any idea how to help her.  The group classes at Oakland really helped our daughter see that it wasn’t just her having these feelings, so be sure to sign up for as man group classes as you can. Good luck!

  • Depressed and suicidal teen

    (3 replies)

    After catching my 14 yo daughter smoking pot in her bedroom, I went through her text messages and discovered she has been getting high regularly for several months, and was also raped recently. I've known she was depressed but not how bad it was. She has been doing poorly in school but not totally failing- she is very smart but insists she is stupid. She is basically refusing to discuss anything with me, outside of expressing that she is angry and wants to kill herself.  What have you done that actually helped your teen recover from a similar situation? Forced therapy seems unlikely to be helpful. Keeping her at home will just increase her isolation as she refuses to engage in any activities or consider online school.  Seems like a lot of people try a lot of things most of which don't work.  I don't want to over react but the suicide talk makes me feel drastic and immediate action is needed, this isn't run of the mill experimentation. 

    RE: Depressed and suicidal teen ()

    I work with families of children and teens who have attempted suicide. This is every parents worst nightmare and I am sorry you're going through this. Your daughter urgently needs mental health support. Please find her a good therapist, or a support group if she prefers. If insurance allows contact the psychiatry department at Children's Hospital Oakland, or at least ask them for guidance.  If she is actively suicidal call the mental health crisis services or go to the ED. Encourage her not to isolate but also give hr space when she needs it. Make sure your home is free of any obvious risks (hiding medications, razors, etc for example). Be there for her, listen, empathize. Make sure other adults in her life are there for her too. Monitor her online activity. You say she was raped; has she talked with you about this? has this been reported? to police? school? doctor? Is her rapist someone she still has to face every day? Have you or she been in touch with a local rape crisis center or rape crisis hotline? Also you may also want to get mental health support or yourself, this is a huge amount to be dealing with. Please take good care.

    RE: Depressed and suicidal teen ()

    I'm so sorry you and your daughter are going through this. My daughter and I have been in a similar situation and it was devastating. If she is in immanent danger of hurting herself (especially if she talks about a specific plan to hurt herself) take her to the hospital so she can get hospitalized for 72 hours (5150).  Lock away any pills (advil, Tylenol, and prescriptions), knives, etc at home and take out anything from her room that could be harmful to her . We even put a sound alarm on my daughter's door at night so we could sleep and know if she left her room to venture around the house so we could hang out with her.  I didn't trust what was going on with my daughter at all.

    Work with a psychiatrist to determine if she needs medication and where she is at in terms of depression and any plans to commit suicide. Dr. Ray Hearey in Orinda was helpful for us. He also called Alta Bates and gave them a heads up that we were coming to the hospital when she needed a 51/50.  When she is stable enough,  DBT therapy might be helpful -- this sort of thing is geared specifically for people like your daughter.  I would check out Clearwater DBT in Oakland.  They have group and individual help for teens and adults suffering in this way. My daughter refused to go to the group (only individual therapy) at Clearwater but we all (especially parents) learned skills that could carry us through everything.   I would say DBT and meds for my daughter helped us most.  My biggest revelation from DBT was that I had to work on a continuum of acceptance and change.  If we were struggling with 5 issues I had to pick one or two issues to change and accept the other 3 or 4 issues as is until we had more capacity to deal with it. It is insanely hard to wait and see what happens when your child is suffering. There was no cure all answer. I thought about sending her to a wilderness or art based camp and or a therapeutic boarding school (we used Shayna Abraham, from Prepare to Bloom therapeutic educational consulting to research good choices) and each time I got close to doing so I got scared off by thinking about how I would lose my daughter for a significant period of time (18 months on average) and how unregulated most of those places are and how many many kids don't get much better from attending these pricy places (they sometimes get worse). My daughter also refused to go to school so we sent her to Tilden Prep (Walnut Creek and Albany) which was a great decision. It really helped give us some time to deal with getting her stable (and boost her academic confidence). We did that for a year and then sent her back to public school.  And we got through it.  My daughter is in high school and is relatively happy and adjusted. She still has ups and downs and still takes meds but is doing really well. There is hope for change.

    RE: Depressed and suicidal teen ()

    I am a Holistic Health and Wellness Coach and have helped a few teens with their depression and anxiety with CBD Hemp Oil. It is not considered cannabis because it comes from Hemp and there is no THC in the oil. It is an excellent anxiolytic and CBD has been used for PTSD as well. The only down side/side effect is that it will not work well. Teens feel grounded and the anxiety moves out of their body, they can focus and function better. CBD is also a huge detoxifier, as I am sure with the stress she has endured, she has what they call neurotoxicity- which makes it hard to concentrate. CBD is a great detoxifier. You definitely do not want her smoking cannabis, as most likely it has high amounts of THC which can exacerbate the depression.

  • Hi all.  Our 14-year old son has been involved in what seems to be a hot-and-heavy text relationship with a girl from his middle school, but we have little evidence the relationship exists outside of texting.  It's very tumultuous and volatile, as often happens with young teens.  Although we've asked about her, he has not admitted she is his girlfriend, or even that he likes her, but we know from his text messages that they are saying they love each other.  We do not make a habit of reading his texts for privacy reasons, but when plugging in his phone (which we keep outside his bedroom at night) on several occasions, we have seen alarming messages (e.g., one time she sent him a link to an ISIS be-heading video), so we do peruse them from time to time.  He knows we sometimes read them though he is not happy about it.  Today we saw one in which she said "please don't leave me," which seemed odd because he was upset about her not being able to do something with him yesterday, and it turns out he was threatening to kill himself.  It was very dramatic, so I don't know if he meant it or was just trying to make her feel bad, but I've heard you should always take teen suicide seriously, no matter the context.  So, what does that mean?  Do we find a therapist, call 911, or what?  We are supposed to take a vacation out of the country in one week.  Do we cancel it?  I can't believe our kid is saying stuff like this and have no idea what to do.

    Find a therapist immediately. Ann Martin Center in Emeryville might be able to help you or help you find a good therapist.

    That is concerning.  I would suggest explicitly carving out time to connect with him to express your worry and to create a space for him to share what's going on for him (aim to create a balance of inquiry and also openness and receptivity to whatever he may or may not have to say).  Ask some specific questions to assess how serious it is: is this something he's thought about before?  If so, for how long has he been having these thoughts?  Has he thought about how he might do it? Are there any other self-harming behaviors he's considered or engaged in (cutting, pills, drugs, alcohol, for example) Then ask yourself if he has access to the means to carry out a plan, if he has one.  If his response to your inquiries further raises concern rather than quells them, let him know that his safety and sense of well-being is your top priority and that you plan to get some additional help for him asap.... like a therapist.  There are some recommendations for teen therapists on this site.  You can also check out psychologytoday.com, goodtherapy.org, and networktherapy.com and search for a therapist, inputting specific criteria - location, gender, specialization.  Teens need a delicate balance of privacy and continued parent involvement, so expressing interest in his experience of his day to day life is important.  These years can be tumultuous for teens (and parents!), and they need to know you trust them to explore their sense of self, identity, and place in the world enough to honor some measure of privacy, but they still also need to know that they have you as a resource.  

    I'm sorry you are going through this. I am in a similar situation with my 15-year-old son and it's terrifying. I am NOT a mental health professional, but what I have learned over the last few weeks is yes, take it very seriously. Ask him directly if he's contemplating suicide, and if he has a plan. Super hard conversation to have but I'm told it's better to demystify. If he doesn't have a plan then you're in a better place. Get him help-there are lots of therapists who deal with teens and depression. I would get him in to see someone right away. Your pediatrician or school counselor should have names to recommend (that's where we got referrals.). You don't say whether you were planning on taking your son with you on vacation. My gut tells me that if he went with you it should be fine. But I would be nervous about leaving him. Again, I say this from my own experience and not as a professional. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Asperger Teen with Depression has considered suicide

March 2013

My very bright 17yr old daugher suffers from depression and has has considered suicide, but assures me that she would not attempt it because she loves me and knows I would never get over her death. She is seeing a therapist, but is opposed to taking medications for fear they will affect her creativity or make her not feel like herself (she is a creative writer). Her few friends are also ''different'' (one is a transvestite) or emotionally unhealthy (depressed/manipulative). I am scared to death and feel like I walk on eggshells constantly, usually breaking most of them in my attempts to be loving and supportive. Any suggestions for psychiatrists or other help?

Been there, or somewhere similar. I can relate to your fears, for sure. A teen talking of suicide is to be taken seriously; stating a reason not to do it is a good sign, but a depressed teen having suicidal ideas is at risk, period. I am sure all this is overwhelming.

Your first step should be a serious talk with her therapist. You need an opinion about risk. You need an opinion about having an evaluation about medication and whether it might be appropriate. (And a plan for how to discuss that with your daughter). You need an opinion about therapy and prognosis. You need to feel confident about the therapist, to feel you and the therapist are a team, working together to help your daughter. You need to share your fears with this therapist, and see if the therapist has recommendations for you, for support, for help. Your daughter is a minor, and while a good therapist won't violate a minor's privacy, he/she should be willing to work with parents in the interest of the child.

Your daughter may resist the idea of you talking to her therapist,(lot of eggshells here), so you have to be clear that you are on her side, wanting to help, not frustrated with her or impatient. You want to convey that you want her to have a good future, free of depressive thoughts and limitations.

If you don't feel confident about her therapist and the plan to help your daughter, find professional help for yourself, so you get a second opinion and a professional ear for your concerns (and some support.) And do all this now, before your daughter's 18th birthday, when you will have far less ability to intervene, and your daughter will be no longer able to utilize services for adolescents. You mention Asperger's....if she has been diagnosed, you must already have some inroads into the professional community. Maybe start there?

Teen depression is scary, and it is very difficult not to fall into feeling helpless. Be sure to be kind to yourself.... Been thru teen depression

Recent teen suicides at Berkeley High?

Oct 2005

My son hangs out with a number of kids from Athenian and Berkeley High. In the past two weeks he has told me of two ''friends of friends'' who have committed suicide. I was horrified and greatly saddened - but since I haven't heard about these at all I wonder, can it be true? I was an angst ridden teen myself not so long ago and I do remember this age group having a morbid romantic attachment to feelings of detachment and yes, even suicide. It such a difficult topic and as a group we don't talk about it. Does anyone have any wisdom to share? Thank you. mom

It is true that there have been several local teen suicides lately. I do not know the circumstances of both of them, but I do know that in one case, the child who committed suicide called some friends for help after taking many pills, and the friends were involved in calling 911 and trying to save the kids life.

Because of the involvement of the other teens, and because of the way teens are in constant contact and communication, I think that many teens know about these events that happened in the community.

Therefore, I think it is important to talk to our children about suicide, about all the places there are to ask for help if they are ever contemplating such dire action, and to talk to them about their obligations should they ever find themselves on the other end of a phone call from a friend in trouble. We have to teach our children the line between confidentiality and required action when a life is in danger. Suicide is a very hard subject to discuss, but it is the only way we can reach our kids. You can be sure that they are discussing it amongst themselves and if we don't talk to them about it we are missing a learning opportunity and opportunity for closeness. concerned parent

My son is at BHS and one of the suicides was a friend of his girlfriend. So I know that that one, at least, is true. It was so tragic, an overdose of aspirin, then regrets and an ambulance called, but too late. My understanding is this was a kid who had had problems for some time, cutting himself in Middle School and so forth.

When I remember that I myself considered suicide via taking a bottle of aspirin (not seriously, I think) when I was 12 and 13, it's just that much more scary. It's so easy. And at that age problems loom so large. Sometimes there seems to be no way out.

My own son is a cheerful soul who would probably never think of doing anything like this, but I've still tried to make sure that he knows that there are many, many ways to live in the world, many alternatives, many ways out.

Sigh. My heart goes out to those families and I can't help thinking that there but for the grace of God go I. anonymous

Hello, I would like to suggest that you call the office and ask to speak to the principal just to inquire if there have been any reported suicides. If there have been I would further suggest that you try and contact crisis support services 1- 800-309-2131 they also have a suicide hotline 1-800- SUICIDE, which is here in Oakland right off of Alcatraz to see if there is someway to create a support group for your son and his friends to talk about issues surrounding them. Berkeley high also has counseling services and they are excellent, they might be even able to create the needed support group. in my prayers

i was so heartbroken to read of the death of G., and the beautiful tribute from his parents. as another parent, i wish i possessed the words to ease the pain of this enormous loss. instead, i'm crying for your son, and mine, and the terrible cost of adolescence, sometimes. your hearts are so large and generous, to reach out to all of us in your time of grief, and your loving remembrance of G. makes me wish i'd known him. a mom

My son, G., was one of the recent suicides discussed here. Since I've been 'out of the loop' for the past few weeks, I am saddened to hear that he was not the only one.

I'd like to offer some thoughts in response to the comments posted here, based on my recent experience.

Although G. told the friends he called for help that he had taken 'aspirin', the pills he took were much much more toxic. Parents, please, do not leave medication around, any more than you would leave a loaded gun. Be sure to look at everything in the medicine cabinet and THROW AWAY old medications! Lock up dangerous meds.

Since I am in this unfortunate position, many parents and kids have shared with me their own experiences with suicide attempts. Most people keep such events quiet, because we all want to appear healthy and 'normal.' But I am quite sure G. would have known about some of these attempts which did not end so tragically. You know our kids are a lot closer to each other than they are to us in these teen years; they know intimate stuff about each other which you may think you have kept private. It saddens me to think that G. may have assumed that his actions would result the same way his friends' had -- by receiving the help he needed and a return to health.

Please re-think the importance of 'saving face' for your family and your child versus the importance of saving other lives. I now understand more clearly than ever that the distinction between ''suicide'' and ''a call for help'' is not in the intention of the person, but in pure dumb luck.

These issues are indeed painful and difficult, I know. Adolescence sucks, under the best of circumstances. Yes, G. was troubled, but the only way we found out was because a caring and brave classmate called me. He was a model student, getting straight 'A's, polite in and out of class, a member of the cross-country track team, etc etc etc. Please don't kid yourself that you would ''know'' if your kid were in trouble. Again, we need to let all kids know that they are not betraying their friends when they help them get help.

Thank you all for your support. d.

Support for friend's son who talks of suicide?

Nov 2005

A friend's 14-year-old cuts himself and has talked about suicide. His parents have not been successful in getting him to talk to a therapist. I'm wondering if there are any group meetings for teens and their parents to talk this over, get peer support for him? Anybody know of anything like this? Thanks very much. Concerned friend

I would like to recommend a therapist who specializes in teens. I am responding to the request for help with a 14 year old teen boy who talks about suicide and who cuts (Nov.5). I would highly recommend consulting with Kirsten Beuthin, LMFT ASAP to get the needed support for this boy if you have not already found what you need. With these serious issues, going to a professional who specializes in teens, and these types of concerns, seems crucial. She has a wonderful web site where you can get more information. www.baytherapy.com Kirsten Beuthin, LMFT Offices in Oakland and San Francisco 510.652.0990 or 415.401.7180 Anon Parent

Depressed 15-year-old daughter cutting and talking of suicide

April 2002

Hi, My daughter is 15 yrs old and has been on Effexor for about 8 months. She has been taking 75 mg and it made a huge difference. She had been cutting herself and had thoughts of suicide. My two sisters (ages 39 and 44 yrs) have suffered from depression since their teen years and are both now on Effexor and actually recommended it for my daughter. But now my daughter feels 75 mg is not enough and she feels self-destructive so I called the psychiatrist and he is putting her on 150 mg. Beyond the extreme behavior of cutting, it is hard for me to distinguish regular teen issues and problems with depression. I find myself going easy on her because I don't want to make the depression worse or cause her to cut. But I also feel kids have so much more today than we ever had and they are still struggling and huge numbers have depression. What's going on???Also, does anyone have real good information on Effexor, I asked the psychiatrist if it was safe giving a 15 yr old 150 mg and he felt it was fine. But he's not real talkative or supportive. I hope to find a new psychologist that can prescribe meds and counsel. a dad

my daughter is 15 and struggles with depression and anxiety. She's been suicidal in the past. I believe she may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, but I don't know for sure. Her biological father left me when I was 2 months pregnant, came back around when she was 5 and proved to be the most inconsistent person I know. At 13 my daughter asked him to leave her alone and stop contacting her. Since then he shows up, whenever the spirit moves him. This has been a real distressing part of my daughters need to grow on. Oh, she was adopted by my husband when she was 7 or 8. Anyhow now we're being blamed by this buffoon for screwing up our daughter. I see it more as a biological problem first, my family has a strong history of depression, then situational. She is currently being treated with anti-depressants and therapy. She has times of great despair, but for the most part is progressing. One issue that really concerns me is how many girls she knows have eating disorders and actually find it kind of cool to starve themselves. My daughter is a very loving, giving person and some of these girls glob onto her for support. We've worked very hard at helping her understand that she doesn't have to fix other kids problems, in fact these are for adults to deal with. We've encouraged her to talk to the school counselor when this becomes demanding. It's been very hard to watch my daughter struggle with her mood disorder. Any other info would be great. a mom

I want to reply to the parents of the depressed teens. Last year at age 15 my daughter was also very depressed, cut herself, and talked of suicide. We got her psychotherapy that seemed to help. She was against taking any medication. This year she is much more cheerful but seems very susceptible to stress. Although her father is often depressed, neither has been diagnosed as being really bi-polar. Our problems sound less serious than yours, but there is definitely something going on at age 15. Perhaps telling your daughters that things may improve as they get older will help them. Best of luck to you both. Anonymous

Angry 13-year-old says he thinks of dying every day

Sept. 2002

Our 13 year old son is very beligerent these days. Last nite, our son told us that he thinks about dying every day. As we tried to talk to him about this he claimed that he has a religion/belief system that is secret; that he has had it since he was born; that this belief system is what keeps him from killing himself. We were horrified. He says that we don't know who he is. When we ask him to tell us who he is, he refuses. We are very alarmed and think this may be a sign that he needs some help. We do not know where to go for help. He is a very sensitive kid, who keeps repeating that he has alot of anger inside and that he has had to bottle up his feelings all his life and can't let his feelings out. Any suggestions. I am thinking that some sort of teen group where he could see other kids talk about feelings might help. Please help!!! Scared Parents

[Editor notes: Many of the messages below were forwarded as they were received since several parents felt it was urgent to do so. ]

Dear Scared Parents,

It sounds to me like your son needs some help fast. Some resources might be:

If you have medical insurance see if it offers any mental health care. Call and ask to speak to someone who works with teens.

Talk to your son's physician, he/she may be able to refer to a psychologist or someone who could talk to your son. Or the physician might be able to help you evaluate the situation.

If you are a UC Berkeley faculty or staff member CARE Services over at the Tang Center might be able to help you evaluate the situation, and help you find someone to help your son (this resource is only for UC Berkeley folks though).

Another idea might be to call Berkeley Mental Health and see if they can refer you to someone who is familiar with teens and their issues.

And you can always just check the previous postings from this parent's list to get names of therapists etc. who are good with teens. There are lots of people in this area who are experienced in this area, and many of them have a sliding scale if cost is an issue.

It can frequently be very difficult to tell when a teen is just being a teen, and when they really need some help. From your posting, I would encourage you to take your son's comments seriously, and have a professional check things out. Getting some help could make all the difference in your son's life. Best of luck, Anonymous

Good Grief! Your son is telling you that he thinks of dying and that he has a lot of anger inside and that he can't let his feelings out and you wonder if he needs help?!? He is begging you for help! Start with your health insurance company. They should have a mental health line for you to call. They will give you a list of appropriate psycho-therapists to contact for an assessment. Some sort of teen group may be of some help, but meanwhile let a professional determine what he needs. Don't be afraid of overreacting, you should consider yourselves lucky that your son is reaching out to you (in his own teen-age way) so that you can get whatever help he needs now. I hate to think of how many teen-age tragedies could have been averted if parents, teachers, school staff, or friends had paid attention to the clues and made the leap to do something. Please help him! Marcia

Seemingly??? If I were you, I would immediately turn off the computer and try to get him an appointment with a therapist as soon as possible. Call your pediatrician for a referral and/or look in the Parents of Teens archives for referrals for therapists. He not only sounds extremely troubled but he is putting out a HUGE call for help. A teen group would NOT be the answer as the first step, because he needs to find a therapist who could work with him individually on these feelings that he is suppressing and who could try to understand the belief system he is focusing around. This is critical. Good luck! His call for help suggests that he might be open to a therapist willing to listen. Anonymous

I am not a professional, but have worked in the field of mental health for many years. It sounds like your son is definitely telling you that he needs help. Whenever a child discusses killing himself it is a clear sign that he is in danger of doing himself some sort of harm, whether it's drugs, alcohol, trouble with the law, or the worst possible scenario, a suicide attempt. The things he is telling you demand urgent attention. I don't think a teen group is the right way to start, as it sounds like he has been sublimating a lot of his anger and depression, as has issues that go way back, which indicate he needs to be evaluated professionally before any therapeutic modality is instated. I urge you to get help right away. If you have health care, I wouldn't hesitate one more day. If you don't, you might want to try calling Berkeley Primary Care Access Clinic at 204-4666, located at the old Herrick Hospital Site. If they don't have on-site psychological services, they can probably give you a referral to affordable care. Get some advice, and get your son in to be evaluated as soon as possible. In the meantime, it sounds like he is vocalizing some of his issues, albeit in a roundabout manner. Keep the channels of communication open and continue to be open to his needs. He's at least willing to talk to you to some degree, which is encouraging. -- Please sign me anonymous.

Scared Parents, My son had similar problems. He is being treated for depression. My advice is to be supportive of your son and find a good therapist. Saying to your son who are you? or we don't know who you are anymore probably just makes him feel worse. He sounds like he is depressed and is struggling with a lot of issues. Remember everything for teens is intensified especially if they are already very sensitive. Kaiser has a teen group, but you have to be a kaiser member. You also should know that if you see a therapist it is possible that they may think your son should be hospitalized. This happened to my son. In fact, they can hospitalize him with out your consent if they think he is a danger to himself or others. This was a shock to me and my son, but it turned out that my son was around other teens with similar feelings and benefited from the experience. I hope this helps if you want more info maybe you can get your email to me thru the moderator. I need to keep this anon to protect my son. I can ask my son if he would want to talk to your son. Through a chat or something (my son just turned 15). anon

My oldest son is now 16, and we had similar talks with him when he was 13/14 about death, dying, anger, killing himself, and my husband got totally upset. We consulted a psychologist, and he asked if there had been any actions, attempts, that just having thoughts was not necessarily dangerous. We were told that many boys have these thoughts, and the fact that our son expressed them to us was a very good thing. That we should listen, and not be judgmental, and not try to fix things, but to be there for him. To spend time with him. TO talk with him and let him figure out a solution. And the changes he finally made were very modest. It was just the fact that my son felt that he had choice. It was also very helpful having a professional give us guidance. My son actually was only willing to talk to him twice. I suggest reading the book, Raising Cain, Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, by Kindlon and Thompson. What you're seeing is how our society is incredibly sexist, and trashes the emotions of boys, especially sensitive, intelligent boys. And while our society denies it, I think most boys are very sensitive and intelligent, which is where all the anger comes from, the repeated snuffing of our boys' emotional expression. And unfortunately, schools and the way schools are set up, start this when boys are 5. Here's a referral to a wonderful psychologist: Kirk Hewitt: 510-869-2545 Good luck. Anonymous

You have to get some help right away. I think first you and your husband should seek counseling to get an understanding of what may be going on with your son and how to deal with it. This is because I think your son is likely to resist talking to a therapist, and you need some knowledge and strategies for the time when you are ready to talk to him about his mental state and take some steps to help him. If money is an issue, talk to your city or county Mental Health Services, or his school. Please don't delay. It sounds to me as though your son is very much in need of help. Good luck! Louise

There are support groups for teens. I think that therapy only works if the person going is ready and willing to hear what the (hopefully good matching) therapist has to offer. I think when a teen can connect with other teens who can relate to their feelings, there is much more chance of healing/growth. I would suggest Al-anon or Al-ateen. Although, I don't know whether there is alcoholism or drug use in your family. The feelings of anger that your son describes sound familiar and are common for children from dysfunctional families. Try not to take it personally, and think of your son's welfare.

You have every reason to be scared. Get your son to his pediatrician NOW for a work up and a referral to a psychiatrist. A situation where a teen is thinking about dying everyday and possibly delusional is way beyond the point where group therapy alone can fix it. It sounds like he is severely depressed. Depression is a disease--a life threatening one--and he needs professional evaluation and treatment.Another possibility if you can't get him in to his doctor right away, is to call Alameda Child Services 1-800-491-9099, they provide specialized evaluation and treatment of troubled children. I know that watching someone in your family suffer with this illness is frightening and heartbreaking, I've been there, its easy to go into denial, but know this, you have to pull yourself together to take action, at the stage it sounds like your son is at it isn't going to just get better on its own, typically people just continue to spiral down. Don't end up one of those parents who only realize how ill their child was after their child commits suicide. I know that sounds horrible, I hate to write it, but too many kids do it to take a chance. If you need information and advice, I recommend the Family Alliance for the Mentally Ill's Information and Referral line 510-835-0188. Good luck and God bless. I will be thinking of you and your son. Marilyn

To Scared Parents: Please take your son's words seriously and get him some help. A group doesn't seem appropriate at this point as his suffering seems to be reaching a culmination. A therapist I would whole heartedly recommend for great balance and wisdom and experience with troubled young people is Betty Tharpe in Albany. Her number is listed on Solano Avenue. Best to you. Anonymous

To Scared Parent: I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who felt worried for you and your son when I read your posting. There are many places to look for help for your son, and I strongly encourage you to do so. I don't want to alarm you, but he definitely seems to be in a great deal of pain and needs individual attention, and not just a group. Where you look may depend on your financial resources and your insurance coverage. You should probably begin by alerting his physician. If you have Kaiser, or medical insurance you should start there to have him evaluated by a psychiatrist. If neither of those is a possibilty, I would call Berkeley Mental Health (if you live in Berkeley). The East Bay California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists has a web page and the California Chapter of the American Psychological Association has a referral service, but you really need to find someone who has experience seeing teenagers who feel suicidal, have possible delusions and are in crisis. I would take this seriously, and act quickly to help relieve the pain he is obviously in. Mary Ann

Children's Hospital offers some mental health services and the people they employ are part-time and so also in private practice.. Dr. Brent Carter who was there several years ago was good for my son. --Anon


Daughter talking about suicide - is this kind of talk a trend in teens?

I would love to hear from anyone who has had experience with teen ( girl) depression, suicide moods. My daughter sees a therapist once every two weeks because its all I can afford. We basically have a very positive relationship , but there are other factors. I know it is important to take all these indications very seriously, and I am, but I also wonder if there is a trend or a style going around that encourages this kind of talk -- a psychological equivalent of ghetto style. My daughter's moods shift. Often she seems just fine. But I hesitate to leave her along for very long at all these days - which makes it hard to have a life since I am a single parent. Any feedback about this kind of a situation would be really welcome. 

Any talk of suicide should be taken seriously. Cognitive therapy and/or medication are 2 very successful treatments. A Mom

Take talk about suicide very seriously. It's good that your daughter is talking to you about it. Sure lots of kids talk about death & suicide & morbid subjects & Marilyn Manson, etc. but that is distinctly different than suicidal ideation. The danger with depression and suicidal ideation is that a depressed person of any age can accidently kill themselves by taking permanent measures to solve a temporary problem. Your daughter needs more therapy like 2 times a week at least. If she cannot promise that she will keep herself safe, you should immediately have her evaluated for hospitalization. There are many resources for sliding scale therapy in the Bay Area.

Also, make certain she has the phone number of the Suicide Prevention & Crisis Intervention Service for your county. Alameda County's is: 510 849-2212.

Parental Stress may also be of help to you at: 510 893-5444

Be calm & take this issue very seriously.


What does your daughter's therapist say about whether teens try on depressive and suicidal attitudes? What does the therapist say about medication for depression - and is the therapist an M.D. who can prescribe it? What does your daughter's pediatrician say about teen depression and medication?

I would definitely continue to take your daughter's talk and signals seriously. As the mother of two middle-aged to old teenagers, I have not heard anything at all to indicate that saying one is depressed or is considering suicide is a fashionable attitude that kids try on.

As one who has personally battled several serious episodes of depression since young adulthood, here is what I have learned the hard way - I need medicine, and I believe that is true of many, most, or even all clinically depressed people. Modern anti-depressive medication has made me myself again. (I have taken Effexor and Wellbutrin, not at the same time, of course - both work well for me, with no side effects to speak of.)

I have had talk therapy too, and while it was a positive experience, I don't believe now that it actually pulled me out of my first terrible episode of depression, which went on for well over a year. I believe now that what happened was that over time my body was able to heal the physical illness that causes depressive episodes.

In the meantime, the talk therapy was the supportive care that kept me alive while my body battled the disease - it kept me from suicide, so it certainly worked to that extent! But even so my suffering during that time was terrible, and it was again in subsequent episodes until I tried medication. With medication, one doesn't have to suffer; one's life and work don't have to fall apart.

I urge you to talk to your pediatrician and to the therapist about trying medication. Your daughter might or might not feel that taking anti-depressives will stigmatize her, or will be a scary confirmation that she is really sick, but if she is clinically depressed, her life is at stake, literally.

As a wizened old survivor, I know that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. But not all young people understand that.

My heart goes out to you. Living with a child or teen who may be suicidal is terribly hard. It wears on you day by day like water on rock -- occasionally a torrent, usually a steady flow, rarely ceasing altogether. I assume your daughter's therapist has explained the hierarchy of increasingly serious signs to watch for: such as suicidal ideation at the bottom, talk of specific plans, attempts effective or not. If not, call a suicide prevention center or the therapist and get filled in.

Take it very seriously. Better to overreact than live with regrets and if-onlys. The sad truth is that you must face the reality that your child may try to take her own life, and may succeed despite all you try to do. It is better to face this than to avoid it. Once faced, you can go on with the here and now.

Do you have friends to talk to? It is not something to hide or be ashamed of, and talking to a sympathetic friend, relative, or minister can help give you perspective and ease the burden you carry each day.

You didn't mention drug treatment (e.g. antidepressants). Consider it. This is no time to be a drug-free purist.

Finally, love her. Simply love her.

The City of Berkeley's Mental Health Division provides excellent service to families, teenagers and children who reside in Berkeley or Albany or attend Berkeley or Albany schools who are experiencing moderate to severe emotional, psychological, or relational problems. They are an excellent resource: their staff are well trained and very carefully selected . Fees are on a sliding scale based on income.

Their programs include outpatient clinical services and adolescent mental health services at the Berkeley High School Health Center. Contact Family, Youth and Children's Services 1925 Derby Street Berkeley, CA 94704 (510) 644-6617 Telephone (510) 644-6021 Fax (510) 644-6915 TDD

A long time ago (13 years or so), I went to the Women's Therapy Center. They have a sliding scale (at the time, it went down to $8/session. Last I heard, they had raised it to a minimum of $15/session, but that was at least 7 years ago; it may be higher now). I don't know if they deal with Teens. I found them to be just what I needed. They have student interns who are supervised by experienced therapists (my early appointments were sometimes recorded, so my counselor could talk with her supervisor about it). I chose to stay with my therapist after she entered private practice (though at that time she raised her rates, of course), and ended up working with her for 7 years. My husband also worked through the Men's Therapy Center at one point, and was satisfied with them. I think the key is to request another therapist if you don't click with the first one or two. Probably you can get info about the WTC or MTC from the phone book.

These are some thoughts concerning teenage girls, depression, and suicidal tendencies.

I've been thinking lately about the role of PMS in my life over the last 37 years. I think menstruation and PMS need to be talked about more openly and seriously rather than being joked about as they so often are. They need to be brought out of the closet as has been menopause. Over the years I have been severely depressed, suicidal (even attempting to take my own life at one point), and full of rage. But it's only been lately that I've seen VERY CLEARLY the connection between my moods and my monthly cycle. The majority of my cycles begin with about 5 days of extreme sadness with lots of weeping, rage at everyone and everything, feelings of despair and hopelessness, and seemingly uncontrollable lashing out at people around me, not to mention the physical symptoms - headaches, backaches, and cramps. The emotional symptoms are more intense for me than the physical. This 12 times per year for the last 37 years - since I was 11. I wish that I had had someone to tell me from the beginning that this was hormonal, that I was not crazy, that this is not who I am , that it will pass, that I could get relief from it. But menstruation was not talked about in my family - it was a private thing. I learned about it from a film shown during girl scouts. It's only been fairly recently that I've learned to hide for a few days, to talk sense to myself, and to put my family on PMS alert.

I realize that there are other causes for depression, that there is depression that lasts for long periods of time, that boys and men get depressed. But it seems to me that if you feel your emotions and body are beyond your control and you don't have a clear understanding of why it's happening, that can contribute to feelings of being crazy, that something is seriously wrong with me, leading to issues of self-esteem and more generalized depression? I don't know, I'm no doctor, but this seems to have applied in my case.

Not having a teenage daughter (I have a teenage son), but having been one and having known many, I know that the combination of bad PMS and the typical life issues that teenage girls deal with can be incredibly intense. Girls need to be observed closely to see if there's a connection between their monthly cycles and their behavior, and then helped through these times by supportive adults. Let them know that they're not crazy, that this is not who they are, that this will pass, that they can weep on your shoulder, that they are still loveable. Get them medical help if necessary.

Re: teen depression I would also take suicidal ideation very seriously. My sister has been depressed since she was a teenager (though she hid it well by being the family clown). The depression as gotten worse and worse over the years, and recently (at age 55) she attempted suicide.

A few more thoughts on this. Please think back over your child's life to see whether he/she has had any kind of illness with very high fever, including but not limited to meningitis, encephalitis, measles or whether he/she has had any kind of injury to the head. With either of these situations, the child might have sustained some brain injury. People with brain injury CAN have depression as a side effect. The treatment for this kind of depression is quite different from other forms of depression. Please be aware that many doctors and even many neuropsychologists are unaware of the possible connection between childhood brain injury (from disease or injury) and adult depression. However, you can contact Cai Johnson and Children's Hospital. She is a pediatric neuropsychologist and knows of this possible connection. Testing is required to determine whether a particular person's depression is connected with childhood brain injury (of course, I would assume there has to be a history of such injury before anyone would do such testing).

There is another amazing resource, especially if your teen is 18 or older. It called Recovery Inc. and is a self-help group, somewhat like 12-Step programs, only more structured and more practical (in my PERSONAL opinion). It is meant specifically help people deal with every day life, especially people with depression, anxiety, etc. It is common sense put into a method. The person who referred me to it commented, And there's nothing so uncommon as common sense. If your teen is under the age of 18, someone else can go to the meetings (no charge! you can give a donation at the end of the meeting IF you want and can), and then work with the teen. There is a book used in Recovery entitled Mental Health Through Will Training. That is the book used n the meetings, and it is useful to read the book at home.