Local group responds to recent teen suicides

Suicide prevention seminar scheduled for Thursday night

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter


Updated: June 1, 2011, 6:29 PM


If you go

• What: Free “Helping Hurting Teens” suicide prevention seminar.

• When: 7 to 9 p.m. today.

• Where: City Harvest Church, 8100 N.W. Ninth Ave., Vancouver.

• Information: Unite 4 Life: 360-670-9468 or its website.

Five Clark County teens have died by suicide in the past four months. In response, a local nonprofit that addresses teen suicide and depression is offering a free seminar tonight.

The Unite 4 Life event is from 7 to 9 p.m. at City Harvest Church, 8100 N.W. Ninth Ave., in Vancouver.

Two Vancouver teens — a girl at Columbia River High School and a boy at Skyview High School — died by suicide within one week of each other in mid-May. In February, two high school boys — one at Battle Ground High School, the other at Union High School — took their lives, said Aaron Chidester, Unite 4 Life executive director. A fifth teen died by suicide in recent months as well, but Chidester said he didn’t know details about the teen.

Tonight’s 90-minute presentation, “Helping Hurting Students,” is a prevention message for teens, parents and other interested community members. Topics covered include understanding depression and how it affects teens, identifying warning signs of teen depression and suicide, and creating a help-seeking atmosphere for hurting teens.

The presentation will be followed by a 30-minute question-and-answer session.

The church can hold 700 people, and Chidester said he expects the event will be well-attended.

“I’m expecting a full building,” he said. “I think the concern in the community is at a high. There are teenagers who have questions. There are parents who are scared.”

The organization might host additional seminars if tonight’s event indicates there is a need for more outreach, Chidester said.

Chidester said he has meetings scheduled next week with the Clark County commissioners and Vancouver Councilwoman Jeanne Stewart to discuss a communitywide response.

Unite 4 Life also will offer crisis intervention and small-group discussions for teens who want to talk about their feelings of depression or about the loss of their friends.

Unite 4 Life was created in Alameda County, Calif., after a rash of teen suicides in 2006-07. The nonprofit group worked with schools and students in the area.

The organization relocated to Vancouver in 2009.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546 or marissa.harshman@columbian.com.