The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), in partnership with mental health experts from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and George Washington University, today released a recorded webinar video to help parents of teens recognize signs that their children may be facing mental health challenges—and share resources on how to talk to kids about mental health, make homes safer for those who may be at risk and help reduce the risk of suicide among teens.
“Studies show that suicide is preventable and simple actions like storing firearms securely when not in use can help save a life,” said Joe Bartozzi, NSSF’s President and CEO.
The video, which aired live from NSSF and Project ChildSafe’s Facebook page, features a panel discussion between Dr. Doreen Marshall, AFSP’s Vice President of Mission Engagement, and Dr. Sherry Molock, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at George Washington University, on signs teens exhibit when they are dealing with challenges to their mental health, including having thoughts of self-harm. Both experts emphasize the importance of parents having conversations with their kids if they sense their children are struggling.
Dr. Molock and Dr. Marshall encourage parents to watch for warning signs that their teen may be experiencing mental health challenges by observing what they say, how they behave and the moods they project. According to these experts, the most important things parents can do if they recognize any of these signs are to have a conversation with their kids and be proactive in preventing access to potential means of self-harm.
“We know many teens may be thinking about suicide, so talking about it with our kids—before it becomes a crisis—is really important,” Dr. Marshall says. “It may sound difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Talking openly with our young people about mental health, just as we would physical health, can be the key to preventing a crisis, and saving a life.”
Dr. Molock agrees, emphasizing that talking about mental health and self-harm with our kids does not cause them to attempt suicide.
“Many kids are actually relieved to be able to talk about it, so let the young person know you can handle the discussion, and you’re willing to do anything to keep them safe,” Dr. Molock says.
Also important is creating “time and distance” between a person having thoughts of suicide and a method of harm. When access to a potential lethal means is interrupted, it creates an opportunity for the person to change their mind and seek professional care. Recognizing that firearms are sometimes involved in suicide attempts, NSSF’s Bartozzi urges gun-owning parents to practice safe firearm storage and learn about available secure storage options.
“We need to discuss this issue openly and honestly as a community and give parents the tools and information they need to make the home environment safer if they’re concerned someone in their family is at risk,” Bartozzi says. “In addition to thinking about prescription drug and other means, it may also mean rethinking how and where you store your firearms.”
The webinar complements a free resource developed by NSSF and AFSP—“A Guide for Parents: Understanding Youth Mental Health and Preventing Unauthorized Access to Firearms”—available at NSSF’s Project ChildSafe® website or AFSP’s Project 2025 website.
Anyone experiencing a crisis is urged to reach out to any of the following resources:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
- Lifeline Chat: suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat
- Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741741
- Emergency Response: Call 911 or contact your local emergency room
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