Youth suicides spur Battle Ground forum

Mayor organizes event aimed at prevention after three recent deaths, as well as a number of attempts and threats

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

 

Public meeting

What: Community roundtable discussion.

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 29.

Where: Battle Ground Community Center, 912 E. Main St.

Why: Battle Ground Mayor Lisa Walters is hosting the forum in response to recent youth suicides in the community.

Since Jan. 1, three Battle Ground-area youth have died by suicide.

Battle Ground Mayor Lisa Walters has met with each of the mothers who lost a child by their own hand.

Her conclusion from those meetings: The community isn’t doing enough.

“What do we do to get some hope back into these kids?” Walters said.

For starters, Walters held meetings with Police Chief Bob Richardson and Battle Ground Public Schools Superintendent Shonny Bria. She reached out to suicide prevention organizations, talked with faith-based groups and attended workshops about preventing such deaths.

And now, she’s bringing the entire community together — parents, teenagers, community leaders and religious groups — to have a roundtable discussion at the community center on Thursday, March 29

A few months ago, Battle Ground police officers started commenting on what seemed to be an increase in suicide-related calls. So the department started tracking suicide deaths, attempts and threats within city limits, Richardson said.

From Jan. 1 to March 14, police responded to one suicide death, eight suicide attempts and 16 suicide threats, Richardson said.

For Walters, the number of threats and attempts are just as troubling as the number of deaths, which include two more youth who lived outside city limits.

“Everyone is really worried about contagion,” Walters said. “But my thought is, we’re already in contagion.”

Walters hopes the community roundtable discussion will shed some light on what barriers to suicide prevention exist in the community and what can be done to remove the barriers and help kids. The meeting may also serve as a starting point for future collaborations between groups and organizations, she said.“Sometime we have to start talking about it,” Walters said, “because the kids are talking about it, so I’d rather have an adult involved.”

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health;http://facebook.com/reporterharshman;marissa.harshman@columbian.com.