Forums target teen suicide awareness, prevention

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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As a nurse practitioner, Beth Walton sees quite a few patients with depression and anxiety.

As a mother of two teenage daughters, she hears too often about local kids' taking their own lives.

And as a health care provider, she knows the community lacks hospital beds for suicidal children.

In response, Walton is focusing her energy on teen suicide prevention and awareness.

Walton has created a teen suicide task force and is hosting a series of forums for teens. The peer-to-peer discussions touch on a variety of topics, including depression, anxiety and bullying. Teens also offer testimonies, revealing their own struggles and encounters they've had with others who are hurting.

"It's teens talking," Walton said, "not just another adult talking at them."

But professionals such as Walton, do address the teens. Walton says she hopes to show the teens how to have empathy and compassion for others. They also teach teens to ask, listen and tell when they see another teen in trouble, Walton said. The adults also provide teens with education on warning signs and resources.

The first forum was held in January, and about 25 teens attended. The next two meetings are Wednesday and March 6. The events will include pizza and door prizes.

Meetings begin at 6 p.m. at the Vancouver Clinic in Battle Ground, 2005 W. Main St. The forums are open to kids 18 and younger. Parents can attend and observe, but the forum is for the teens.

Walton said her goal is to get teens talking.

"What we're doing now isn't working," she said. "I really believe the teens can be a part of the solution, we just have to empower them and encourage them."

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