Help! Our daughter attempted suicide
(First of four parts)
Years ago in high school, our daughter tried to end her life,” says FS. “This shocked us, because she has a loving family and friends. The school wanted us to keep quiet. But now in college, she attempted suicide again when her boyfriend left her. She is also failing most subjects.
“We read the Inquirer news on student suicides (Feb. 1, 2023) and Ambeth Ocampo’s column about it (Feb. 3, 2023). We could not believe that one mother asked him to let her daughter withdraw from his class so that she could get an A grade the next time. Is this a problem with mental health, bad parenting, or ‘entitlement from never losing at video games,’ as Ocampo said? Our daughter stays in her room all the time with gadgets.
“Unlike that mother, we don’t pressure our daughter on grades. But when she cuts class, we tell her that we work hard to pay her tuition. Because of her suicide attempt, the school let her graduate even if she did not attend class. She talked to the guidance counselor, who was nice but did not really help.
“This is our fault. Did our daughter inherit this condition from us? I am not sure if my husband or I are depressed, but I cry a lot now. A doctor gave her pills, but she got stomachache so she stopped taking them. She says that only her high school BFF (best friend forever) understands her, but when we told her that girl is also suicidal, she got mad. Natakot kami, ayaw na namin siyang pagsabihan, ibigay na lang namin ang gusto niya. (We got scared. We won’t reprimand her anymore. We’ll just give her what she wants.)
“I read your articles for our family business. But you also help people with life problems. Is there hope for our daughter? Can she recover? We don’t know what to do.”
I am sorry to hear about your daughter. Since you bring up several issues, our discussion will span four parts in this series.
A previous suicide attempt is a huge risk factor for a repeat, so in an emergency, call the hotlines of the National Center for Mental Health or other groups. Take your child to the nearest ER. Your daughter has severe depression, which is an illness, so just like any other physical problem, see a psychiatrist—and a psychologist—immediately.
The pills give your daughter stomach pains, so ask the doctor for alternatives. My students with depression and anxiety report that it may take three (or even more) different medications before they hit on something that works for them. Gastric issues are a common side effect of antidepressants, as are dizziness, headaches, agitation, etc.
Your daughter cannot just stop taking any antidepressant, without medical supervision. Follow doctor’s orders and I repeat—do not suddenly stop taking medications.
When your daughter attempted suicide in high school, you were understandably in shock and you likely did not know what to say. You were not abusive or negligent in any way, so what she did is not your fault—please stop blaming yourself.
Focus your energies on helping her cope with difficulties in better ways. Even if she continues to shut you out—staying in the room alone with gadgets is not a good sign—you cannot give up on communicating with her.
For scripts on how to talk to loved ones who attempted suicide, plus strategies to handle anxiety and depression, get our book “Lifeline: A Layperson’s Guide to Helping People in Crisis” which also contains warning signs, guidelines on what (or what not) to say or do, plus professional groups that can help.
You ask about genetic causes of depression. “Scientists believe that as many as 40 percent of those with depression can trace it to a genetic link,” says medical writer Stephanie Faris of Healthline. “Environmental and other factors may make up the other 60 percent.”
Again, stop blaming yourself. You are loving parents who are trying your best to deal with your daughter’s illness, whether or not she responds accordingly. Take care of yourself; you may want to talk to a psychologist, too.
There is hope. Teens with depression can recover, but not on their own. They rely on a support system of faith, family, friends, mentors, therapists, as we will discuss next week.
“Lifeline: A Layperson’s Guide to Helping People in Crisis” is available at Lazada or Shopee.
(Next week: Talk openly about mental health)
Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at Lazada or Shopee, or the ebook at Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at email@example.com.
If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, please reach out to the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH). Their crisis hotlines are available at 1553 (Luzon-wide landline toll-free), 0917-899-USAP (8727), 0966-351-4518, and 0908-639-2672. For more information, visit their website: (https://doh.gov.ph/NCMH-Crisis-Hotline)
Alternatively, you can contact Hopeline PH at the following numbers: 0917-5584673, 0918-8734673, 88044673. Additional resources are available at ngf-mindstrong.org, or connect with them on Facebook at Hopeline PH.