Suicide Prevention

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 2:58pm

Helpful advice for parents from Dr. Jonathan Solomon, OMHS School Psychologist

Everyone at OMHS knows we are “Strongest Together.”  That phrase is definitely consistent with my role as school psychologist here.  As part of being Strongest Together, I will periodically post information that empowers parents.  This first column’s topic is one of great importance – youth suicide.   Here is some helpful information from the National Association of School Psychologists:  

1. Youth suicide is a serious problem. Suicide is the leading cause of death among school age youth. In 2015, approximately 18% of 9th to 12th graders seriously considered suicide with 9% having made an attempt one or more times.

2. Suicide is preventable. Youth who are contemplating suicide typically give warning signs of their distress. Most important is to never take these warning signs lightly or promise to keep them secret.

3. Suicide Risk Factors. Certain characteristics are associated with increased suicide risk include:

  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Isolation and aloneness
  • Non-suicidal self-injury (e.g., cutting)
  • Mental illness including depression, conduct disorders, and substance abuse
  • Family stress/dysfunction
  • Family history of suicide
  • Environmental risks, including presence of a firearm in the home
  • Situational crises (e.g., the presence of a gun in the home, bullying and harassment, serious disciplinary action, death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, breakup of a relationship/friendship, family violence, suicide of a peer)

4. Suicide Warning Signs. Most suicidal youth demonstrate observable behaviors signaling suicidal thinking:

  • Suicidal threats in the form of direct statements (e.g., "I am going to kill myself") and indirect (e.g., "I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up again")
  • Suicide notes and plans (including online postings)
  • Making final arrangements (e.g., giving away prized possessions)
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Changes in behavior, appearance, thoughts, and/or feelings.

5. There are protective factors that can lessen the effects of risk factors. These can include family and peer support, school and community connectedness, healthy problem-solving skills, and easy access to effective medical and mental health services.

In the Howard County Public School System, procedures are in place to actively identify and intervene whenever there is suspicion of a suicide-related concern.  When such a concern is raised, trained staff provide immediate support to the student and parents are informed.  Such collaboration between home and school is critical as HCPSS staff can help families connect with local community mental health supports. 

We are fortunate in Howard County to have access to the Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center.  Their 24-hour Crisis Phone Line (410-531-6677) provides immediate support.  (All HCPSS high schoolers have the Grassroots contact information on the back of their school ID cards).  Help is also available through “live chat” ( or by texting your zip code to 898-211.  Grassroots also offers drop-in crisis counseling at their facility (located at 6700 Freetown Road in Columbia; near Atholton High School).

For more tips for parents and educators, view the documents below:

Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents and Educators

Prevención del suicidio juvenil: consejos para padres y educadores