Healthy Tahoe: A parent safety checklist for adolescent mental health

David Stevenson

Stress, anxiety and depression caused by isolation and other changes to way of life during the COVID-19 pandemic may increase risk for depression, substance use disorders and suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for 15 to 34-year-olds, and it’s known that many more attempts are made for every completed teen suicide.

David Stevenson

Recognition and early intervention of mental health and substance use disorders are the most effective way to prevent suicide. Learn the warning signs of suicide to help prevent an attempt: talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live, increased substance use or other reckless behaviors, talking about death or suicide, or seeking methods for self harm (such as searching subjects related to suicide online or obtaining a gun). Maintain open communication with your loved one and their friends, providing an opportunity to help if needed.

Parents are encouraged to take a hyper-vigilant approach to suicide prevention. If you suspect your child or their friends of suicidal behavior, consider these safety practices:

●Proactively establish your professional and personal help network. Lay the groundwork and have a system in place before your child goes into crisis. Inform your child’s physician or therapist. Reach out to other mental health professionals or services and local help groups, like the local El Dorado County chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

●If you have a gun at home, keep the gun unloaded and locked away. Lock the bullets in a place separate from the gun and always hide the keys to both in separate places. Safety devices, such as gun locks, lock boxes and gun safes, should be used for every firearm in the house.

●Remove or lock up medicines. Prescription lock boxes can be purchased on Amazon for around $30-40. Dispose of unneeded medication at the anonymous drug drop-off bin located in the South Lake Tahoe Police Department’s entrance off Johnson Blvd.

●Take away your child’s keys – do not allow them to have access to a car until they’ve been assessed by their physician or a mental health professional.

If your child or loved one mentions wanting to hurt themselves or others, always take it seriously. This includes comments about death, dying, self-harm, harming another person or an attempt to end his/her life or end another person’s life. If concerns exist, call your child’s physician or therapist. For immediate safety concerns, call 911.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. David Stevenson is the Chief of Police with the South Lake Tahoe Police Department. For more information about taking care of your mental health, or for a list of area resources and crisis lines, visit

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