Why do I need to watch for suicide?
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those ages 10 to 24 in the U.S.
- For each suicide death, family and close friends are at a higher risk for suicide themselves. If you are concerned, talk to your child immediately.
- Knowing the risk factors and warning signs helps you help your child with concerns about himself or another student.
- Asking directly about suicide tells your child it’s ok to talk about it with you.
- Take all suicidal thoughts, threats, and behaviors seriously.
- Most suicidal people want to end severe emotional pain.
- Emotional pain makes it hard to think clearly, consider options, or remember reasons for living.
Prior suicide attempt
- This is the strongest predictor of future attempts.
- Using alcohol and other drugs can be an attempt to self-medicate to ease the pain related to depression, traumatic events, or other issues.
- 96% of drug-related suicide attempts involved prescription drugs.
- 1 in 5 teens will have depression at some point.
- Many teens with depression are undiagnosed.
- Childhood depression often continues into adulthood, especially if left untreated
Conflicts are a basic part of everyday life. For youth, some conflicts can seem impossible to deal with. As an adult, listening with empathy and providing support is key.
- Bullying: In-person or cyberbullying.
- Trauma: Examples may include injury, assault, legal trouble, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
- Relationship breakups: Impulsivity combined with potential inability to think through consequences
before acting can increase risk for suicide following a breakup.
- Sexting: Teach your children to never take images they don’t want family or future employers to see. Forwarding a sexual picture of a minor is a crime, even for a minor who forwards it.
- Recent loss: Examples include moving, changing schools, divorce, or death of a loved one.
- Questioning sexual orientation: Sexual minority youth are more likely than their heterosexual peers to be depressed and attempt suicide.
Call 911 if:
- A suicide attempt has been made
- A weapon is present
- The person is out of control
Take immediate action and call 800-231-1127 (Common Ground) if someone:
- Makes a serious threat to kill himself or herself such as:
- "I wish I were dead."
- "If ...... doesn't happen, I'll kill myself."
- "What's the point of living?"
- Looks for a way to carry out a suicide plan
- Talks about death or suicide in text messages, on social media sites, or in poems/music
- Gives away possessions
Call 800-231-1127 if someone exhibits uncharacteristic behavior such as:
- Rage, anger or seeking revenge
- Reckless or risky behavior
- Expressions of feeling trapped, like there's no way out
- Alcohol or drug use
- Withdrawal from family or friends
- Anxiety, agitation, or sleep irregularity
- Dramatic mood changes
- Discussions of no reason for living or no sense of purpose
What you can do right now:
- Know suicide risk factors and warning signs.
- Share this booklet with your child.
- Have a discussion with your child about what to do if they are concerned about themselves or a friend.
- Teach skills in problem-solving and conflict resolution.
- Maintain a supportive and involved relationship with your child.
- Encourage involvement in sports, activities at school/place of worship, or volunteering.
- Help your teen develop strong communication skills.
- Get medical care for depression and substance use.
- Don’t leave a depressed or suicidal teen home alone.
- Most suicides occur in the early afternoon/evening in the teen’s home.
Remove these items or secure in your home:
Prescription and over-the-counter medications
- Keep medications, including vitamins with iron, where your kids or their friends cannot access.
- Don’t keep lethal doses of medication on hand. A pharmacist can advise you on safe quantities.
- Safely discard unused medications. Visit Operation Medicine Cabinet web page for drop-off locations.
Alcohol and drugs
- Talk to your kids about substance use as a major risk factor for suicide.
- If your teen has a pattern of substance use, seek treatment services. Substance use could be an attempt to self-medicate a mental illness.
- Substance use makes youth more likely to choose lethal means, such as guns. Remove firearms from your home.
- Lock up potentially harmful common household products, including household cleaners, products containing alcohol (such as mouthwash, hand sanitizer, etc.), and cosmetics (such as nail polish remover, perfume, etc.)
- Remove firearms from your home. More than half of all suicide deaths result from a gunshot wound.
Talking to your kids
How to start a conversation after a relationship breakup:
- I am so sorry you are going through this.
- What did you notice about yourself in the relationship?
- What is positive? What would you like to change?
- Were there patterns or issues that brought you into this relationship or caused it to end?
- What are your goals in life?
- Who are you on your own and how do you want to live your life?
- What support do you need at this time?
How to start a conversation about suicide:
- “I have been feeling concerned about you lately.”
- “Lately, I’ve noticed some differences in you. How are you doing?”
- "What happened? It might help to talk about it.”
Questions you can ask:
- “When did you begin feeling like this?”
- “Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?”
- “How can I support you right now?”
- “Could you tell me more about that?”
What to say that can help:
- “You are not alone – I’m here for you.”
- “I may not understand exactly how you feel, but I love you and want to help.”
- “I think you feel there is no way out. Let’s talk about some options.”
Myths and Facts
Myth: A youth threatening suicide is not serious about it.
Fact: It's better to overestimate the risk of suicide and intervene than to ignore or minimize behaviors.
Myth: Suicide cannot be prevented because a suicidal youth will find a way to do it.
Fact: Most suicidal youth do not want to die, they want their pain to end. Recognizing the warning signs is key.
Myth: Talking about suicide will cause youth to attempt.
Fact: Talking about suicide reduces the risk. Be direct in a caring, non-confrontational way.
- Common Ground Resource & Crisis Helpline
- Community Network Services (for ages 18+)
248-745-4900 • cnsmi.org
- Easterseals Michigan
National: 800-75-SEALS • Local: 248-475-6400 • essmichigan.org
- Jewish Family Service
248-592-2313 • jfsdetroit.org
- Oakland Community Health Network
800-341-2003 • occmha.org
- Oakland County Health Division Nurse on Call
800-848-5533 • firstname.lastname@example.org
- Oakland Family Services
248-858-7766 • oaklandfamilyservices.org
michigan.gov/ok2say • Text 652729 (OK2SAY)
- Training and Treatment Innovations (for ages 18+)
Oxford: 248-969-9932 • Troy: 248-524-8801 • ttiinc.org
- The Trevor Project Lifeline
866-488-7386 • thetrevorproject.org
Other useful websites: