A step in the right direction toward suicide prevention

By Heather Acheson, Columbian staff writer

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Youth suicide. It’s an issue that no parent ever wants to imagine could touch their lives.

But statistics prove that the unfortunate reality is that it does. Often unexpectedly.

The Washington State Department of Health’s 2012 Healthy Youth Survey, released earlier this year, unveiled some surprising statistics when it comes to youth suicide. As part of the survey, students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 answered questions about safety and violence, physical activity and diet, alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, and related risk and protective factors.

Survey results indicated that since 2010, there had been a significant increase in students who seriously considered suicide in the past year — 17 percent in grades 8 and 12, and 19 percent in grade 10. Fourteen percent of students reported making a plan for how they would attempt suicide, this number represents another increase from the previous survey.

What may be most disturbing about the survey results is that one-third of students said they had no adult to turn to if they felt depressed or suicidal.

Parents undoubtedly want to support their kids in every way they can. From the time children are small and just starting to make their own decisions, moms and dads want to make all of the right decisions when it comes to dealing with difficult situations. But saying and doing the right thing is not always so cut-and-dry. This is particularly true as kids hit the middle school and high school years, when outside influences make even strong impacts on young peoples’ lives and it becomes more and more difficult for parents to intuitively understand what teens may be thinking and feeling.

Among the solutions to this community issue is for adults to step forward and acknowledge the need for more education when it comes to understanding children. One such opportunity will occur on Wednesday, when Dr. James Mazza, a University of Washington expert on adolescent suicide, will host the free two-hour training.

Mazza will work with parents to help them understand youth suicide, recognize warning signs and help students who may be at risk.

The event, which is free to the public thanks to a grant from Camas-Washougal Community Chest, will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., at the Camas High School north commons area.

While the focus is often put on what youth are learning and understanding at school, sometimes it’s the adults who can use some continuing education as well.