TRIGGER WARNING: suicide and gun violence. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and though this is a topic moms hope they will never have to think about, the data suggests otherwise. Did you know that more than 600 children die from suicide by gun every year? In 2018, suicide was the #2 cause of death (behind only unintentional injury) in American children ages 10-14 and adolescents ages 15-24. (source)
I was shocked by these statistics the first time I heard them, but I take great comfort in knowing there is a lot we can as parents to lessen these risks for our own children. We can, of course, watch carefully for prolonged sadness and changes in mood and behavior. We can have honest conversations about mental health within our family and with our children’s healthcare providers.
We also must recognize the role that guns play in the suicides of children and teens. Those 600 suicides account for 40% of child gun deaths. According to a study published in the Journal of Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 80% of children under 18 who died by gun suicide used a gun that belonged to a relative.
Be SMART for Kids is a national program that seeks to remind parents that the onus is on us–the responsible adults–to keep guns out of the hands of children. It isn’t enough to hide guns or to tell children not to touch them. Children are naturally curious, and teenagers are impulsive. “SMART” is an acronym for:
S: Secure all guns in homes and vehicles.
M: Model responsible behavior around guns.
A: Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes.
R: Recognize the role of guns in suicide.
T: Tell your peers to Be SMART.
I was listening to a National Suicide Prevention Month speaker panel when I first heard these statistics about the rate of suicide among American children and teens. It’s absolutely heartbreaking, and I desperately hope and pray for a better reality for my own children. At the same time, I recognize that Be SMART presents a very tangible and concrete action step that can help to alleviate these risks.
Let’s Be SMART together.
If you are interested in learning more about the Be SMART program or having a Be SMART presentation at your school, PTO, or other organization, you can go to www.besmartforkids.org to learn more.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please know you are not alone.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
TREVOR Project (LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention hotline): 1-866-488-7386