Kay Côté [she/her], Youth & Family Navigator

The Youth and Family Navigator program is a free service that works to combat youth suicide and offers preventive services. Kay Côté has been passionate in her work as a navigator since 2021, empowering youth on their mental health journeys.

Recently, the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), which funds Youth and Family Navigator programs statewide, has worked with the Maine Veterans Affairs (Maine VA) to provide free gun locks to the program. An additional safety tool became available when Kay and other navigators across the state worked to allocate additional funding to purchase lock boxes; for families to store items like medications and sharps.

Gun locks and lock boxes are important tools for limiting access to lethal means. When a person is in a suicidal crisis, there’s an hour-long window in which they are at the highest risk of harming themselves or others (via self-injurious acts, suicide, or homicide attempts). As Kay explains, these tools are crucial in that window, “preventive measures during that 60 minutes allow for a decrease in actual attempts when barriers like gun lock[s] and lock boxes are in place.” (Source: Means Matter: Duration of Suicidal Crisis, Harvard School for Public Health)

When Kay offers gun locks and lock boxes to the families she works with, she assists youth and caregivers in recognizing the signs and symptoms that indicate when tools like a lock box would be helpful. Adolescents can work with their caregivers by advocating for their own safety, to prompt caregivers in securing lethal means in a lock box or using gun locks.

“When we have access to preventive measures, and we’re talking about preventive measures with a positive and affirming outlook on mental health, it increases transparency, understanding, and support,” Kay shares. “Pretty frequently we will talk about, okay, this week, the adolescent was particularly struggling with their mental health. Were caregivers able to utilize the lockbox in an affirming way? It’s a continued conversation, and it’s a way to give youth some autonomy and control over their mental health.”

By taking an approach that empowers youth to take charge of their mental health journey, Kay is using the tools she has been given to not only increase the safety of her clients but also encourage them to build self-awareness and make decisions that support their mental health.

Youth and Family Navigation has been able to offer gun locks to clients’ families throughout Crisis and Counseling Centers’ many programs, providing a low barrier method for all clients to make their homes safer.

Any agency can receive 25 free gun locks by visiting: https://www.mainepreventionstore.com/collections/mental-health/products/cable-gun-lock

Story by Amelia Metcalfe [she/hers], Development Specialist at Crisis & Counseling Centers