Sue Rosenstock, who lost a 16-year-old son to suicide and has become an ardent advocate for prevention, tells teenagers in Maryland and beyond that they can seek help by text message — through the number 741741.
Rosenstock also talks a lot about warning signs of emotional suffering: personality change, agitation, withdrawal, lack of self-care and hopelessness. And she gives out the national suicide prevention number: 800-273-8255 (TALK).
“We want to increase help-seeking behaviors,” said Rosenstock, who founded the nonprofit Umttr with her son’s friends after his 2013 death. One goal, she said, is to help teens “learn warning signs and look out for each other — not being junior psychologists but being friends.”
Jill Harkavy-Friedman, vice president of research for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said constructive discussion — about coping with loss, finding resources, supporting others, moving forward — is important.
“One thing that’s important to know is you’re not going to make someone suicidal by talking about it,” she said, noting that some people mistakenly think conversation plants the idea.
Experts say reasons for suicide are complex, often involving internal vulnerabilities and external triggers.
In Maryland’s Montgomery County, where two students recently took their lives, the youth suicide prevention project Sources of Strength has been active in schools. Montgomery’s school and county leaders also have started a campaign called BTheOne, focused on suicide prevention and substance abuse.