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My Teen is Suicidal. How Can I Help Them?


If your teen struggles with thoughts of suicide or has attempted suicide in the past, we’re sure you know they need mental health treatment as soon as possible.

At this point, you might be trying to determine what kind of treatment facility is best for them.

Below is an overview of the various treatment options that might be available for your suicidal teen.

Inpatient Hospitalization

If your teen is actively considering suicide, then stop reading this article and call 911.

Or get in the car and drive your adolescent to a mental health treatment center or hospital. If there’s no mental health or behavioral hospital near you, take them to the emergency room in a regular hospital. It’s an emergency, and every second counts. Mental hospitalization facilities provide inpatient stabilization and care for a short-term period – typically between 72 hours to 2 weeks.

Residential Treatment Programs

Residential treatment centers are one step down from inpatient hospitalization. In these group homes, licensed providers offer 24/7 treatment to suicidal teens who cannot safely live at home. Many suicidal teens go straight from inpatient hospitalization to a residential facility. These residential treatment centers usually offer a broad array of therapeutic programming, including intensive one-on-one therapy, family therapy, psychiatry, group therapy, experiential therapies, and more.

There are both short-term and long-term residential facilities for suicidal teens. Short-term programs usually offer treatment for 30-60 days. Long term residential programs usually offer treatment for six months to a year on average. Teens who receive long term care usually first start out in a short-term program, as it is less restrictive. If their suicidality does not improve during this time, staff might recommend switching to a long term residential treatment center.

Note: During COVID, residential treatment centers in Los Angeles are deemed essential healthcare facilities and are still open 24/7.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment centers are mainly geared towards teens who are not in immediate danger or those who have discharged from a residential/inpatient treatment program and are now looking to maintain their treatment progress. One type of outpatient program is a partial hospitalization program (PHP). In a PHP, teens receive a full day of treatment at a mental health facility but then go home for the evening. Teens usually attend PHP every day of the week.

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP), meanwhile, offer a half-day of mental health treatment for suicidal teens. Typically, teens will spend 3-4 hours a day at an IOP, several days a week. Just like residential treatment programs, PHPs and IOPs typically offer intensive one-on-one therapy, family therapy, psychiatry, group therapy, and psychoeducation. Parents also receive support in the form of parental training/support groups, multifamily sessions, and more.

Note: during COVID-19, most IOP and PHPs (including at Evolve Treatment Centers) operate their programs virtually.

Once your teen successfully completes an IOP or PHP, they might be ready to step down to outpatient sessions once a week. Seeing a therapist on a weekly basis will help them maintain their treatment progress and help prevent relapse.

To help you on your quest to find the best mental health facility for your suicidal teen, check out our article Choosing a Safe Treatment Center.

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