Oakland County, Michigan/Health/Information/Youth Suicide Prevention Toolkit for Parents

Youth Suicide Prevention Toolkit for Parents

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.

​​Risk factors

Prior suicide attempt
  • ​​This is the strongest predictor of future attempts.
​Substance use
  • 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.
Mental illness
  • ​​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
Interpersonal conflict

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.

​Warning signs

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:
  • ​​Hopelessness
  • 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
  • Depression


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 • noc@oakgov.com
  • Oakland Family Services
    248-858-7766 • oaklandfamilyservices.org
  • OK2SAY
    michigan.gov/ok2say • Text 652729 (OK2SAY)
  • Training and Treatment Innovations (for ages 18+)
    Oxford: 248-969-9932 • Troy: 248-524-8801ttiinc.org
  • The Trevor Project Lifeline
    866-488-7386 • thetrevorproject.org
Other useful websites:

Additional Info