A Guide for Parents: Understanding Youth Mental Health and Preventing Unauthorized Access to Firearms

NEWTOWN, Conn. – The National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®) today released a new guide, developed in consultation with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), that helps parents recognize signs their children may be struggling with mental health issues and offers advice on how to talk to kids about suicide, make homes safer for those who may be at-risk and help reduce the risk of suicide among America’s teens.

The free resource – “A Guide for Parents: Understanding Youth Mental Health and Preventing Unauthorized Access to Firearms” – can be downloaded at NSSF’s Project ChildSafe® website or AFSP’s Project 2025 website.

“Mental health may seem like a difficult topic to raise with children, but it doesn’t have to be,” said Doreen Marshall, AFSP’s Vice President of Mission Engagement. “Talking openly with our young people about mental health, just as we would physical health, can help protect our kids and give them the support they need, long before a crisis occurs.”

Multiple studies show today’s teens are dealing with higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression and other mental or emotional health concerns than any generation before them. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a new set of challenges for teens, including loss of structure, separation from peers and increased feelings of isolation—adding to the stressors young people are already bearing.

“With these realities, it’s crucial that parents take steps to secure potentially lethal methods of harming oneself or others. That may mean rethinking how and where you store your guns and other possible methods of self-harm,” said Joe Bartozzi, NSSF President and CEO.

The new guide covers the health, environmental and historical factors that may lead to kids being more at-risk, as well as warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide, and critical advice on how and when to take action. There are also recommendations on how to secure firearms, prescription drugs, harmful chemicals and other lethal means so they can’t be accessed by a person in distress.

“Keeping guns out of the wrong hands is a firearm owner’s most important priority, and securing a firearm is one of the most important steps parents can take to protect at-risk teens and others in the home,” Bartozzi said. “Our Project ChildSafe website offers several resources on how to determine the best safe storage option for your home and family.”

NSSF and AFSP have developed supplemental resources, including A Tip Sheet For Parents: Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Firearm Safety and Being There for Your Friends: A Guide to Helping Prevent Suicide, for teens who may be concerned about their friends but don’t know what steps to take.

“Suicide is preventable—increasing our knowledge of adolescents’ mental health, combined with secure firearm storage options, is a powerful combination to save lives,” Bartozzi said.

Importantly, 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: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/
  • Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741741
  • Emergency Response: Call 911 or contact your local emergency room

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