How to Recognize the Warnings Signs of Suicide (2:26)
In her memoir "A Mother's Reckoning" Sue Klebold, mother of Colombine shooter Dylan Klebold, lists resources to assist you if you have concerns about your child's mental health.
If you or someone you love is in crisis (with or without thoughts of imminent suicide), call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1–800–273-TALK (8255)
Your call will be automatically routed to a trained crisis worker who will listen and can tell you about mental health services in your area. The service is free and confidential, and the line is open 24/7. Everyone should keep this number handy.
These two organizations provide amazing resources on a variety of topics, including how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and who’s at risk, what you can do to help the bereaved survivors of suicide loss, how to talk to children about suicide deaths in the family, and much more. Invaluable for survivors, educators, activists, and people at risk, as well as anyone concerned about this issue.
With so many programs available for suicide prevention and mental health, how do you know which one to use? A good place to start is the Best Practices Registry (BPR) on the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) website. Programs are listed only if they meet “best practice” standards.
Mental Health First Aid (for Youth and Adults)
Mental Health First Aid, a national organization, offers hands-on training to help people recognize the signs of addiction and mental health distress. I’ve taken the course three times and think everyone should. It’s very powerful to know that for the price of one Saturday, you could save a life.
Bullying can be a problem with any age group; parents and schools can help. Learn how to stop bulling by visit the Stop Bullying website for resources.
Kids are more likely to talk to their friends than to an adult, so kids have to know what to do if a friend is struggling with suicidal thoughts. The “Save a Friend” tip sheet from the National Association of School Psychologists is a brief introduction to what every one of them should know (Notice the importance of having access to a responsible adult or a crisis team member who has been trained to respond appropriately).
School Response to Suicide
In the aftermath of suicide, the safety of other students can depend on how a school handles the tragedy. This booklet (created by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center) provides a practical road map for a difficult time. Aside from the Lifeline, I recommend this resource more often than any other.
The Centers for Disease Control’s Division of Violence Prevention does important work. In particular, I would like to highlight the National Violent Death Reporting System, an invaluable tool in violence prevention.
This database offers comprehensive, anonymous reporting on violent deaths. Linking information about the “who, what, when, where, and how” from data on violent deaths helps us to understand why they happened. Over time, the database can show whether various efforts to prevent violence are working. Currently, only thirty-two states have the funding to participate.
No matter where you stand on gun control and gun ownership, there is an undisputed relationship between access to firearms and increased suicide risk. The Means Matter program from the Harvard School of Public Health features informative and unique approaches to promoting gun safety for all. One of its initiatives, the New Hampshire Gun Shop Project, is a model for collaborative prevention without conflict.
How the media reports on incidents involving suicide can affect public health and safety in the aftermath of tragedy. These are some guidelines:
I would like to see a similar protocol developed for reporting on murder-suicide. Everything we do to increase knowledge, inhibit myth-making, and minimize trauma makes our communities safer.
The Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines provide schools with safe, structured, and efficient ways to respond to student threats of violence. This is a model for threat assessment that emphasizes early attention to problems such as bullying, teasing, and other forms of student conflict before they escalate into violent behavior. Now used in more than three thousand schools in eighteen states, this program trains multidisciplinary teams in a single day.
Threat assessment programs don’t simply reduce student violence. They can help teachers and staff identify kids at risk of many kinds of harm, including suicide, partner violence, and child abuse.
Other Mental Health Resources
All proceeds from "A Mother's Reckoning" will go to the organizations listed below.
Mental Health America (MHA)
All resources provided by "A Mother's Reckoning" published by Crown.