Protecting your family involves more than keeping them safe from an accident or attack. It also involves being aware of the warning signs of substance abuse and suicide; you cannot remove all risk from your home, but you can make it safer.
If You or Someone You Know Is Experiencing Suicidal Thoughts
Speak up if you are worried:
Ways to start a conversation about suicide:
“I have been feeling concerned about you lately.”
“Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.”
“I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.”
Questions you can ask:
“When other people have had similar feelings, they have thought about wanting to die? I’m wondering if you have had thoughts like that?”
“Have you had any thoughts of killing yourself?”
“When did you begin feeling like this?”
“Did something happen to make you start feeling this way?”
“How can I best support you right now?”
“Have you thought about getting help?”
What you can say that helps or provides hope:
“You are not alone in this. I am here for you.”
“I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.”
Call the Stark County Crisis Line at 330-452-6000 or the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 for support.
They are accessible around the clock – it’s important to get professional help.
Reduce easy access to dangerous substances at home.
This includes firearms, medications, alcohol, and sharps.
What are lethal means and why do they matter?
Lethal means are those that are MOST LIKELY to cause death when used by someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. Research shows suicide attempts most frequently involve pills; while suicide deaths most often involve firearms. Suicide attempts with a firearm are almost always fatal, making them the most lethal.
Research has found that access to firearms is a risk for suicide. This does not mean that firearm owners are more suicidal than non-firearm owners; rather, their suicide attempts are more likely to be fatal.
Many suicide attempts occur during a short-term crisis, so it’s important to consider a person’s access to lethal means of self-harm. Access to lethal means is a risk factor for suicide so reducing access saves lives. Most suicide attempts happen at home, are decided on quickly, and involved readily available means.
Warning Signs for Suicide
- Talking about suicide – Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as “I wish I hadn’t been born,” “If I see you again…” or “I’d be better off dead.”
- Seeking out lethal means – Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
- Preoccupation with death – Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.
- No hope for the future – Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped (“There’s no way out”). The belief that things will never get better or change.
- Self-loathing, self-hatred – Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden (“Everyone would be better off without me”).
- Giving away belongings/Getting affairs in order – Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.
- Saying goodbye – Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.
- Withdrawing from others – Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.
- Self-destructive behavior – Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a “death wish.”
- Sudden sense of calm – A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to attempt suicide.
Get to Know the Common Risks in Your Home
Did you know that over 31% of 7th-12th graders in Stark County have used alcohol in their lifetime and over 8% reported using in the past 30 days?
- Keep only small quantities at home. Alcohol can both increase the chance that a person makes an unwise choice, like attempting suicide, and increase the lethality of a drug overdose.
- Parental disapproval is the number one reason kids choose NOT to drink. Read more about the reasons kids abstain from alcohol »
- Encourage your kids to be part of the majority of youth who do not use substances and have them check out Stark County Youth Led Prevention or the Ohio Youth Led Prevention Network.
Underage alcohol use can have serious consequences:
- Is a major cause of death from injuries among young people
- Increases the risk of carrying out, or being a victim of physical or sexual assault
- Can cause a range of physical consequences from hangovers to death from alcohol poisoning
- Is associated with academic failure, legal problems, illicit drug and tobacco use
- Interferes with the ability to judge risk and make sound decisions
- Plays a significant role in risky sexual behavior
- Can cause changes in the structure and function of the developing brain, especially when teens drink heavily
Did you know that inhaling gases or fumes from everyday products to get high can cause permanent brain damage?
- Lock up toxic household cleaning products, pesticides, solvents, and other potential poisons.
- Symptoms of inhalant use may include: slurred speech, dazed appearance, unusual odor, red eyes, runny nose, and/or paint stains on body or face
Did you know that firearms accounted for 77% of all suicide deaths in Stark County in 2022 in comparison to an average of 54% from 2014-2022. That’s a total of 318 deaths in that time frame. This is why safe storage is not only important but can help save lives!
Here are some helpful tips to practice safe storage:
- Safe storage of firearms is employing precautions and multiple safeguards that provide an additional barrier against unauthorized use.
- Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.
- Keep firearms unloaded when not in use.
- Store ammunition separately.
- Use cable or trigger locks. Cable locks can be obtained for free at the Stark County Sheriff’s Office. You can also search here or check with your local police station.
- Temporarily storing all guns away from the home is the most effective method if someone in your home is struggling with suicide risk. Asking a friend or relative to hold on to them is often the easiest way to accomplish this.
- Other offsite storage options may include gun shops, firing ranges, self-storage units, pawn shops or police departments. These may involve fees or background checks.
- In-home locking is not as safe. Kids often know where guns are stored and how to access them, even when adults think they don’t.
- If removing firearms from the home is not possible, take steps to increase time and distance.
- “Triple Safe Locking” at home is the next safest option: unload all firearms, lock them in a gun safe, lock ammunition separately or don’t keep ammunition at home. Trigger or cable locks can be added.
- Change combinations or key locations.
- Remove a key component of the firearms (i.e. the firing pin).
- Use cable or trigger locks. Cable locks can be obtained at no cost at the Stark County Sheriff’s Office.
- If the gun owner is the one at risk, lock all guns and give the key(s) to someone else.
Did you know that 90% of those struggling with addiction as an adult began using alcohol or other drugs before age 18?
- Medications are by far the most common method of nonfatal suicide attempts for all ages and both sexes.
- Follow the 5-point strategy to prevent prescription drug misuse.
1. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Ask about side effects, interactions, and alternatives.
2. Use medications only as directed. Follow dosing instructions and never mix with alcohol.
3. Never share your medications or use someone else’s prescription medication. Prescription doesn’t mean it’s safe for everyone.
4. Securely store your medications in a lockable place. Store medication in its original container and keep an updated list of all prescriptions in your home.
5. Dispose of medications properly. Use a drug drop box, an at-home disposal bag, or take advantage of local drug take-back days.
- Prevention starts with an honest conversation. Find talking points and resources for all ages »
- Sharps or sharp objects can be found throughout the home and include, but are not limited to, knives, razors, and pencil sharpeners.
- Frequently used for emotional regulation.
- Reducing access to sharps – especially in private spaces – is recommended to prevent non-suicidal self-harm as well as when sharps may be a method of choice for those who are at risk of suicide.
- Sharps can be stored securely in a lock box. At the very least, they should be kept hidden and out of reach when a person is struggling with suicidal thoughts. Lockboxes can be purchased online or locally at big-box stores.
Provide Support/Seek Help
Being aware of any mood or behavioral changes, such as agitation, emotional withdrawal, expressions of hopelessness, and/or increased use of alcohol or drugs can help clue in that something may be wrong. If you notice changes, it’s important to take action by asking if they are thinking about suicide. Asking about suicide will not plant the idea in someone’s mind and instead can decrease anxiety. If you don’t feel comfortable asking the question, or aren’t sure what to say, you can call The Stark County Crisis Hotline at 330-452-6000 for help and support.
Know your child: Advice by age (Grades K-12)
Tips to help you help your child live a healthy, drug-free life. Read more about parent tips for every age »
Talk. They Hear You.
SAMHSA’s national youth substance use prevention campaign helps parents and caregivers, educators, and community members get informed, be prepared, and take action to prevent underage drinking and other substance use.
Prevention Action Alliance
As parents, teachers, and other caring adults learn about the issues affecting youth, they can take steps to support their kids in making healthy choices.
Warning Signs for Substance Use
How can you tell if your child is using drugs or alcohol? It is challenging because the changes in mood or attitudes, random temper outbursts, changes in sleeping habits and changes in hobbies and other interests are common in teens. What should you look for? Read more about Warning Signs and Symptoms »
- Changes in friends
- Negative changes in school work, missing school or declining grades
- Increased secrecy about possessions or activities
- Use of incense, room deodorant or perfume to hide smoke or chemical odors
- Subtle changes in conversations with friends (more secretive, using “coded” language)
- Change in clothing choices; new fascination with clothes that highlight drug use.
- Increase in borrowing money; missing money
- Evidence of drug paraphernalia such as pipes, rolling papers, sandpaper, etc.
- Evidence of use of inhalant products (such as hairspray, nail polish, correction fluid, common household products), rags and grocery bags are sometimes used as accessories
- Bottles of eye drops, which may be used to mask bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils
- New use of mouthwash or breath mints to cover up the smell of alcohol
- Missing prescription drugs – especially narcotics and mood stabilizers
You should also look for signs of depression, carelessness with grooming and hostility. Ask yourself: is my child doing well in school, maintaining grades, getting along with friends, taking part in sports or other activities?
These changes often signal that something harmful is going on, and sometimes that involves alcohol or drugs. You may want to take your child to the doctor and ask about screening for drugs and alcohol. This may involve the health professional asking your child a simple question or it may involve a urine or blood drug screen. Some of these signs also indicate that they may a deeper problem with depression, gang involvement or suicidal thoughts. Be on the watch for these signs so that you can spot trouble before it goes too far.
If someone you know is showing signs of substance abuse, find help »