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Psychiatrist holds forum about practical ways to address difficult topic of teen suicide

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. -- Many parents and community groups recognize adolescent years can be some of the most difficult times of a person's life. On Wednesday night St.Ann Catholic School leaders hosted an event called "Keeping Kids Safe" to focus on teen suicide prevention.

"It’s really hard to talk about and I think it’s scary for a lot of people. I think that’s why we avoid it a lot of times," said Dr. Shayla Sullivant, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

She spoke before a group of parents, administrators and community members about practical ways to address this topic with teens. Something as simple as asking your child about their day, or the issues affecting teens at school can provide insight into what your teen might be facing.

"One of the most important things for every adult to know is that we don’t need to worry about putting thoughts into kids heads. We’ve had a lot of research that tells us that’s not the case, it’s really important that we are leaning into those tough question and asking them because that’s where we find that we can actually get kids help," said Sullivant.

Another thing to consider is safety at home. Wednesday evenings discussion focused on proper storage of medicine and firearms as to not give children access to potentially deadly tools. Grandparents Against Gun Violence has been working since 2013 to improve safety at home.

"35,000 people a year die from gun violence, a third of those are homicides, two-thirds are suicides and accidental deaths and that’s where our focus is," said Judy Sherry President of Grandparents against gun violence," said Judy Sherry President of Grandparents against gun violence.

The groups most popular program ‘Lock It For Love’ aims to help.

"That is our program where we distribute free gun locks at community events all over the city," Sherry explained.

Founders say this group has grown from 90 members and supporters to now, over 900 in just five years. With more children living with grandparents or in in non-traditional family settings, many believe addressing teen suicide will take a village.

"We need grandparents, we need coaches, we need neighbors, teachers, we need everyone feeling comfortable talking about it," said Sullivant.