How can I help my niece as her Mom is suicidal?


I need some assistance and guidance. My niece is thirteen years old and over the last five years her Mom has been living with depression. Recently, her Mom has become suicidal. How can I help her? She doesn't appear to want to talk about what is going on her life.


Ben's Answer:

That's a difficult situation - as it usually not easy to get help for a person unless they want to be helped. In most states there are legal provisions for having a person involuntarily hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital. "Danger to self" is one legitimate reason. However, unless a person actually makes a serious suicide attempt or has prepared the means (has a gun, or has saved up pills, etc) to carry it out, most psych hospitals will simply evaluate and release the person. If she is able to speak coherently and she denies being suicidal, they will probably not keep her.

If she would go to a hospital voluntarily it would be a much better option. The quality of the facility is important. Some can be pretty awful and it can be rather traumatic to be there. While other facilities can be wonderful, supportive and healing environments.

If it were my family member, I would gather as many family and friends as possible and do some sort of intervention - confronting her denial about her condition and insisting, for the sake of her child, that she get some help. You should be prepared with a list of options, ranging from a hospital stay, to a residential treatment facility, to intensive psychotherapy, or a psychiatric out-patient program ("day program").

Best wishes,
Ben Schwarcz

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