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09:58 AM

13 Things to Know About Suicide Prevention

September 10-16 is National Suicide Prevention Week. This year's theme is "Take a minute, change a life." Dr. Shayla Sullivant recently shared 13 things everyone should know about suicide prevention:

1. It’s safe to ask. Many worry about “putting thoughts in their heads” when it comes to teens. But research tells us that asking does not increase risk.

2. Many teens want to share their struggles. Every day we have teens who tell us about their suicidal thoughts at Children's Mercy, simply because we ask.

3. Most teens think we should ask: in a recent study at Children's Mercy we learned that young people want us to ask about suicidal thoughts.

4. You don’t have to be a professional to save a life. We need everyone to ask when they are worried, because many teens are not seeing mental health providers. Parents, coaches, teachers, grandparents, neighbors, family friends: “I’m worried about you. I know some people get so upset that they think about dying. Have you ever thought of killing yourself?”

5. Some think teens talk about suicide to seek attention. If someone is talking about suicide in any context they need to be taken seriously.

6. Many teens who attempt suicide act within minutes of deciding to end their lives, typically when feeling desperate. If they do not have access to lethal means (i.e. firearms, sharps, medications, ropes) then the attempt may be interrupted. Lock up all supplies of medication. Over-the counter medications (i.e. Benadryl, Tylenol and Ibuprofen) can be very dangerous in overdose.

7. Limiting access to firearms is one of the top things you can do to prevent suicide. Storing guns outside the home, or unloaded with ammunition locked up separately, helps to decrease risk.


Dr. Shayla Sullivant
"Teens often worry about breaking the trust of a friend who has shared thoughts about suicide. They need to know that is never a secret that a true friend would keep."
Dr. Shayla Sullivant

8. Approximately 90% of people who die by suicide have a treatable condition. Depression is most common, although anxiety, substance abuse and many other conditions increase risk. Appropriate treatment decreases risk.

9. Teens often worry about breaking the trust of a friend who has shared thoughts about suicide. They need to know that is never a secret that a true friend would keep. Adults always need to be notified so they can get help.

10. Often we look for one particular “cause” that led to a suicide, when really suicide is much more complicated. Suicide is not an outcome that should be blamed on one person or situation.

11. Vulnerable youth who see a community mourning a teen who has died by suicide are at increased risk. This is called the contagion effect. It is important to memorialize those who die by suicide without romanticizing the circumstances, to protect vulnerable peers.

12. Suicide is not the inevitable outcome of traumatic events. Most people who have suicidal thoughts, and even 90% of those who attempt suicide, never die by suicide.

13. We have reason to hope. Many amazing people in this world have faced suicidal thoughts, from Michael Phelps to Oprah Winfrey, from President Abraham Lincoln to JK Rowling. Talking about the struggle is the first step to recovery.


Helpful links:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The Division of Developmental and Behavioral Sciences at Children's Mercy is one of the largest collaborative behavioral health programs of its kind in the country. Learn more about it by clicking here.