Our office is deeply saddened by recent events which have increased our community’s questions and concerns about the risk of suicide among youth. We recognize that with a new awareness parents can evaluate situations differently, and that information assists all of us to respond to our young people with increased confidence. Please feel free to copy and distribute this information responsibly within your circle of influence.
Improve Safety at Home: Properly store all firearms and prescription medications. This would be an immediate improvement in the overall safety of the young people in our community. To further reduce risks, remove the ammunition and or guns from your home. Prescription medications can be locked in a container (available at local drug stores) or kept with you rather
than stored in the original bottles in medicine cabinets.
Notice Changes: Suicidal thoughts are a symptom triggered by many different sources, so there is no simple explanation as to who is the most vulnerable. Research, however, has informed us to watch for certain risk factors:
Deteriorating academic performance.
A fixation with death or violence.
Unhealthy peer relationships: Including indications
that the teen is in a destructive or abusive relationship.
Volatile mood swings or a sudden change in personality.
Risk-taking behaviors (substance use/abuse, promiscuity, reckless driving)
Signs of an eating disorder.
Difficulty in adjusting to gender identity.
Anxiety: Reporting “feeling trapped, overwhelmed.”
Reporting a “lack of purpose in life.”
Listen: If a teen is talking about suicidal thoughts, threatening suicide, or expressing a wish to “go to sleep and not wake up” or similar
statements, listen and take their words seriously. Even if the young person has a tendency toward the dramatic, these comments are an indication that there are struggles that feel overwhelming and additional support is needed.
Ask: Asking directly if a teen has had thoughts of suicide will assist you in determining the most appropriate action
of support to ensure safety for a vulnerable teen through a difficult time. There is no evidence that asking directly
about suicidal thoughts will increase the risk of suicide. Asking decreases risk.
Communicate: Every teenager would benefit from hearing that “there is no mistake that cannot be forgiven, no problem that you wouldn’t help them with, no concern in their life that you (their parent) could not handle.” Suicide is a
symptom, not a solution.
Reach Out: Professional support is available in the community to assist you and your family through anxiety, high stress,
achievement problems, substance abuse, and other difficult emotional and situational circumstances. Teach your
teen that it is okay to get help, and that a friend’s suicidal thoughts cannot be kept a secret. Telling a trusted
adult may help to save a life.
Crisis Numbers: Oklahoma HeartLine-405-848-CARE, National Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK
- Paul G. Tobin, Ph.D.
- Ann E Benjamin, M.ED.
- Lisa Marotta, Ph.D.
- Gracie Moyers, M.ED.
- Phyllis VanHemert, M.Ed.
- Nancy McReynolds, Ph.D.
- Moreen W. Foster, MAPCC
- Fred McGinn, MA
- Kimberly Spears, M.Ed.
- Janet Stafford, M.Ed.
- Jan Nelson Kimball, MSW, LCSW