Opinion

Bolster efforts to prevent teen suicides | In Our Opinion

Natalie Myers is a courageous young woman. At one time, she struggled with depression and entertained thoughts of suicide. But she knew enough to seek help. Now, she’s taking her year as Miss Viking Fest to call attention to what she sees as a problem in our community — a preventable problem.

In the last two school years, two North Kitsap High School students committed suicide.

According to the Kitsap County Core Public Health Indicators report, the suicide death rate in Kitsap in 2013 was 100 per 100,000 residents. A total of 1,920 eighth-graders reported seriously considering suicide in 2012, an increase of 6.81 percent from 2006.

Myers wants young people to know that, no matter the issue that is causing them despair, help is available. Let a parent, teacher or school counselor know; they can get you help. (Kitsap Mental Health’s hotline number is 360-479-3033 or 1-800-843-4793. The state hotline number is 1-800-SUICIDE).

Myers also wants to remove the stigma from the topic of teen suicide and get people talking about it: What are the warning signs? What are the resources?

According to North Kitsap School District spokeswoman Jenn Markaryan, local schools have a “comprehensive safety net and care team in place.” She added, “This safety net includes a care team of adults, counseling meetings, family inclusion, teacher team meetings, community services (when appropriate), and many additional components that are case specific. Anti-harassment/bullying prevention and follow through is always a part of our care process and something we take very seriously.”

Clearly, teens need to be a voice in the safety net, because despite those efforts, “[Suicide] is not something talked about,” Myers told the North Kitsap Herald. “It should be talked about, because kids are actually committing suicide. It’s too bad because there are so many resources and so many more people on their side than they even know.”

Dr. Scott Lindquist, the county’s health officer, said more teenagers are at-risk for suicide than in the past. “Life is a lot more complicated for a teenager than it’s ever been,” Lindquist said. “It’s good to have an open line of communication with your kids about suicide … You’re not going to make someone commit suicide by asking them about it.”

Myers will produce several events at her school in 2014-15, including a suicide prevention week and speaking to health classes 12 times about suicide prevention and her own experiences.

The school district should bolster this effort and establish a Teen Suicide Prevention Task Force. The task force could involve teens in building upon the work of the district’s safety net. The task force, comprised of teens, parents, teachers, counselors, and other interested community members, would talk about warning signs and resources; address behaviors, such as bullying, that could spur suicidal tendencies; promote pathways to help; and develop ways for the community to stay ahead on this issue.

We congratulate Myers for her courage and are thankful for her good heart. She will be a catalyst for change in the community.

 

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