Will a School Psychologist Tell My Parents?

Published: May 31, 2017
Dear TeenHealthFX,
Dear TeenHealthFX, I have been dealing with suicidal thoughts and urges for a few years now. I've been pushing the feelings down for a really long time and just a few days ago I relapsed and tried to kill myself. All I ended up doing was cutting my thigh in a few places. I told one of my very close friends what happened and she told me that I needed to get help from a therapist. i don't want my parents to know what's going on and the only therapist type person that is available to me without my parents finding out or having to pay for it is my school psychologist. My question is: are school psychologist bound by the same patient confidentiality rules as normal therapists? If I tell the school psychologist what's going on, will they tell my parents? Signed, Will A School Psychologist Tell My Parents
Signed: Will a School Psychologist Tell My Parents?

Dear Will a School Psychologist Tell My Parents?,

TeenHealthFX would like to start by saying that we are so sorry to hear that you have been in so much distress over the years to the point where you have had suicidal thoughts and urges in the past, and that you have been in so much pain lately that you recently tried to kill yourself again. FX can appreciate wanting to push the feelings down. Painful feelings can be hard to sit with if we let them come up. Pushing down our feelings can also feel like the only way to move onwards for some people. And sometimes we feel we need to push our feelings down because we don’t feel confident that we have people around us to be there with us as we sit with them and deal with them. While pushing down feeling is a common coping mechanism, the problem with pushing our feelings down is that whatever needs to be dealt with never gets dealt with and, subsequently, there is a good chance that feelings of anger, depression or even suicide will return.

All that said, TeenHealthFX thinks that it is very important for you to talk to a mental health professional about what is going on. Given that you are in so much distress, to the point where you are feeling suicidal, it is extremely important that you are receiving mental health treatment. It’s just like someone who is having chest pain and trouble breathing. If they are having such serious symptoms that indicate they might be having a heart attack, they need to get to an emergency room and then follow up with a doctor afterwards for ongoing care. Mental health issues are the same in this way. If someone is showing signs of depression, emotional distress and urges to kill themselves, they, too, need to be in ongoing care with a trained professional.

Your school psychologist would be a great person to start with. As a mandated reporter, your school psychologist would be obligated to inform your parents of any suicidal thoughts or actions disclosed to him/her. However, it is not just for legal reasons that your parents need to be informed. The fact that you are concerned about them knowing indicates some sort of relationship issue which could be contributing to the distress you are in, or at the very least is getting in the way of your receiving the support you need from them during this difficult time. So these relationship issues need to be addressed. You need to be in treatment with a reputable therapist, such as a clinical social worker or clinical psychologist. Your therapist might also recommend that you have a consultation with a psychiatrist to see if you would benefit from taking psychotropic medications. But your parents also need to be involved in the treatment. They need to be educated about what you are going through and how you can best be helped. And whatever relationships issues are present need to be addressed in the therapy. If you are not feeling like you can rely on them to be there for you in a supportive and loving way, this will only increase the distress you are feeling. Your school psychologist would be a great person to facilitate getting you and your parents the help that is needed.

FX can appreciate that it may feel very scary to talk to the school psychologist and have your parents informed and involved. But please talk to your school psychologist about whatever specific concerns you have so he/she can find a way to be helpful to you with it. These are serious mental health issues that can get worse without treatment and that will certainly get worse the longer you keep them inside and all to yourself. So please reach out for help as soon as possible.  

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

If you get to the point that you are seriously considering suicide or are afraid of your impulses then you need to seek help immediately. You can call 911 or go to your nearest hospital emergency room. In northern New Jersey you can also call the crisis hotline from Morristown Medical Center at 973-540-0100. Outside this area call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, available toll-free 24/7. You can also use the Crisis Text Line by texting “connect” to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. This service is free and available nationwide 24/7.

Signed: TeenHealthFX