Teen Suicide: An Issues That Matter Forum

Teen Suicide: An Issues That Matter Forum


[music plays] I’m pleased and honored that Mukilteo could host
this important conversation. As a lifelong Mukilteo resident, I grew up here,
I went to school here, and I’ve seen how much
our community has changed. But as we’ve grown and changed,
at our core, Mukilteo still has
a small-town feel. Neighbors looking out
for neighbors, meeting people you know
on the street or at the grocery store. It’s part of that charm
of living in this community. But, even in our small town,
some of our young people are struggling with big issues:
substance abuse, untreated or undiagnosed
mental health conditions, and in the most extreme cases,
suicide. As mayor, I receive daily reports
from our police department on the calls and the cases
that they work on. It’s one of my responsibilities. It’s one that came, um, sort of,
one of my experiences those first few weeks as mayor. I don’t think I really understood
what that meant, having this window
into the challenges that our community faces. We hear about some events, but our police officers
and our firefighters, they have
a different understanding of the challenges
that our community faces and what that looks like
every day. And so, the most heartbreaking
of those, of course, are the ones
that involve children, and the worst are when
we lose those children to suicide. I wanted to also take a little moment
to recognize our officers. Of course,
they’re sitting in the back. I won’t make them stand up, but maybe our chief
will stand up — And just thank them
for their service to our community [applause] So, our topic tonight,
teen suicide — the evidence is clear when we prevent that
and save lives, that really is an important thing
for a community to focus on, and it requires
a community-wide effort. It requires us to pull
that issue out of the shadows and confront it head on. And we know from the experts that talking
about suicide prevention doesn’t encourage more suicide, but by sharing ways to prevent it,
we can save lives instead. And, so, it’s so important
for you to be here, and I know the panelists,
and myself, and Sno-Isle are so thankful
that you’re here with us on a beautiful summer sunny day, acknowledging the importance
of this conversation. The final point
that I want to emphasize is that for every young person
who dies by suicide, there are many more
who have attempted it and many, many more
who are struggling with untreated or undiagnosed
mental health conditions. We want to ensure that our efforts
aren’t so narrowly targeted that we miss that whole spectrum
of need in our community. And I believe that we can’t have
a conversation about suicide without also talking about
sensible gun policies that can prevent child access
to firearms and save lives as well. There’s been legislation in Olympia to prevent the access of —
by children to guns, and I’m proud
that our local lawmakers, Senator Lee, representatives Peterson
and Ortiz-Self all support it. But as a community, it’s important
that we raise awareness and demand
that that legislation pass. So, thank you for coming,
and thank you for participating, and thank you for being willing
to join as a community to prevent suicide
and to protect our kids. So, I’m honored to be here, and I’m going to walk us
into the first part of our program. So, we have
four amazing panelists. So, I’ll introduce shortly,
and we’ll hear from each of them. And then we’ll have some time
for questions and discussion. So, first,
a few housekeeping items. In case of an emergency, there’s exits at the back
and on both sides of the room, so take a note of the one
that’s closest to you. The restrooms are located
out the doors to your left, my right, and across the lobby. Make sure that you please
silence or mute your cell phone. And if you get a call, step outside to answer it,
if it can’t wait. And if you can,
also please refrain from side conversations
during the program that might disturb others. We’ll have that time
for questions and answers later on in the program. If you plan to take photos,
make sure your flash is off. And another note:
our Sno-Isle Library staff are doing their best to communicate
about tonight’s event, including taking photos and video,
live streaming to Facebook, live tweeting comments and photos. If you want to engage in that too, there’s the hashtag
that’s on the wall. It’s #snoisleITM, or, you know,
if you want to check out those comments when you go home,
you can search that. And all of that, including many resources
that are available, are posted at sno-Isle.org. And now,
we will get into our program. So, our panelists are
Wendy Burchill, the Healthy Community Specialist
from Snohomish Health District, Rena Fitzgerald, Crisis Chat
Senior Program Manager from Volunteers of America,
Western Washington and Liza Patchen-Short,
Children’s Mental Health Liaison with Snohomish County
Human Services, and then Riley Kizziar,
a 2016 Kamiak High School graduate. We’re going to start with Wendy’s. We’re going to hear a statement
from each of our panelists and then take questions. And, so, Wendy,
why don’t you come on up? [applause] Thank you. I’m not used to using notes,
so I apologize, but I’m on a time limit,
so this will — (female)
Could you get closer to the mic? Oop.
Is that a little better? I’ll try to talk a little louder. So, yes, I’m Wendy Burchill. I’m from
the Snohomish Health District, and I’m a
healthy community specialist, working on suicide prevention
and youth abuse prevention. And I want to thank you
for giving me this opportunity to share the public health
perspective about suicide. As Jennifer mentioned,
suicide touches all of us, and I suspect that most of us
know family members, friends, or coworkers, or neighbors
who have attempted or even completed a suicide. We have experienced
the direct emotional trauma, but whether we know
a suicide victim or not, the entire community suffers. We invest in people,
we connect with them, we educate them. We train them
so that we can depend on them to become productive members
of society. The deaths of children
and young adults are especially costly,
emotionally and economically. As a public health professional, a member
of the Mukilteo Youth Coalition — who, many of them are here today, and as a parent
and a Mukilteo parent at that, my job is to learn
about my community, and to understand the most appropriate treatment
and prevention methods, and then to provide
the best guidance. Although this forum discusses
youth and young adults, I want to acknowledge that suicide
is a very broad issue, and it affects all ages. I don’t believe
we can solve the problem by limiting our attention
to just one group. Our solutions must reach out
to all groups if we are to be successful
with any one group. I’m a numbers person, so:
big picture. Here’s what we know. In 2014, there were 42,773 suicides
in the United States. That’s more than
100 suicides per day, making suicide the tenth leading
cause of death overall and the second leading cause
of death among young persons, younger than age 35. Far more Americans
die of suicide than of motor vehicle crashes. In 2014,
127 Snohomish County residents took their own lives. Forty died
in motor vehicle crashes. The suicide rate
in Snohomish County is higher than
that national and state rates, making it the seventh
leading cause of death. And suicide rates have increased
over the past decade, so we know
this is a serious issue. Specifically, we know that females
are more likely to attempt suicide, but males
are more likely to die, because they are more likely
to use a firearm. Suicide rates increase with age. In 2014, the rate
was highest among men, 45 to 65 years old, and young men, 15 to 24,
have the second highest rates. Suicide rates are highest
among Native Americans and whites. The communities to the east,
along Highway 2, have the highest rates
in the county. This picture differs a little bit when we look
at local hospitalization rates for suicide attempts, which are highest for young women,
ages 15 to 24 year olds. This, again,
reflects the grim reality: that men tend
to choose a firearm, where women tend to choose
less lethal methods. Now, let’s focus on youth. In 2015, 11 Snohomish County youth,
ages 12 to 18, died by suicide. The most commonly used means
were firearms and hanging. These suicides occurred
across the county, across all socioeconomic sectors. In reviews of these deaths,
we found some common factors. Many of these
were high-achieving youth with relationship struggles,
easy access to firearms, histories of depression
and self harm, such as cutting, and lack
of crisis resolution skills. Suicide is the last step
in a process that starts with someone
feeling severe emotional pain. We have evidence that
many of our youth are vulnerable. We regularly survey 6th, 8th
and 10th — 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grades
about health issues, and that’s
through the Healthy Youth Survey, which many of you
may be familiar with. In 2014, one in five
Snohomish County high school students reported that
they had considered suicide in the previous year. Many reported that they went
as far as to plan an attempt. Nearly one in ten reported that they actually
did attempt suicide. The warning signs are there. More than one third
of high school students reported being
severely depressed. More than one in four feel that they do not have
an adult to turn to when they feel sad or hopeless. Suicide is
a public health issue. The public health approach keeps an eye on populations,
rather than on individuals, and aims to prevent,
rather than to cure. Public health emphasizes
shared responsibility, rather than blame. This approach aims
to create systems where it is more difficult
to make mistakes and where potential mistakes
do not lead to serious injury. Above all,
the public health approach considers all possible interventions
and engages the community to solve complex problems,
such as suicide. And, I suspect you agree that the community
has to be involved, because that’s why
you’re all here tonight. I personally believe
we can prevent suicides. It’s been identified as one of
the Public Health Advisory Council’s top three health issues
for the community to address. The community-wide approaches
have been outlined in our Community Health
Improvement Plan. And there’s much happening already,
but there needs to be more. First, we need a much greater focus
on mental health. Community capacity
is not sufficient to serve all
who need mental health services. We need to expand access to assure that anyone in need
can be seen quickly. We need to overcome the stigma
surrounding mental health. We need broad community awareness
about mental health so that all of us can recognize
and help those at risk for suicide. A tool for all is to take
a mental health first aid course. It’s just like regular first aid, but it teaches you
the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and what to do if someone you know
is in a mental health crisis. We also need to build resilience
among our youth. This starts with creating
nurturing environments and providing security
and stimulation, but more importantly, offers strong, positive relations
with trusted adults who will listen to them
without judgment. For those young people
who face adverse child experiences, such as abuse, neglect, loss
or other trauma, we need safety nets that can
provide safe spaces for children to rebuild their confidence
in adult mentors. Schools have
an important role here. How to recognize trauma, which can affect
student performance and then helping at-risk students
to overcome the trauma through approaches
that seek accountability, rather than to punish. Given that nearly half
of all local youth suicides involve firearms, we must also
look for effective strategies to address youth access
to firearms. For example, to address
every type of gun violence, we need strategies to assure
that guns are securely stored and that guns have features
to reduce theft, misuse and unintentional discharge. Effective evidence-based programs
already exist, such as the Lock It Up Program. And we need to promote
smart technologies that use fingerprint sensors
and other biometric features to recognize an authorized user. Suicides, unfortunately,
are not inevitable, and the solution is not simple. It will take
comprehensive approaches, and all of us to get involved. Thank you. [applause] Thank you Wendy. I think — thank you for sharing
some really sobering statistics that help frame this challenge
and this issue. Next, we’re going to hear from Liza
from Snohomish County. Come on up. [applause] Thank you. My name is Liza Patchen-Short,
and I work at Snohomish County as the children’s
mental health liaison. In my role, I help families access mental health services
for youth and help reduce
the mental health stigma by providing trainings and being
a resource in our community around mental wellness. We’ve heard from Wendy
at the Health District about what’s happening
in our county. And I’m going to discuss
the mental health side of suicide, which includes some information
about the teenage brain, risks and warning signs,
and what you can do as a parent community member
or concerned individual. As you heard, in Snohomish County,
our youth suicide rate is higher than our state
and national averages. In Mukilteo, most of you know, we’ve had a high number
of suicides, and this is quite concerning. Most youth
who die from a suicide have mental or emotional needs,
most commonly, depression. What I’m hearing from schools
and other community agencies, are that kids are overwhelmingly
feeling depressed and anxious. This stems from too much pressure,
not fitting in, being bullied, not feeling supported,
and the list goes on and on. The stats are nearly that
30% of Snohomish County students are being —
are feeling depressed. It’s important to note
that the suicide risks are higher
in depressed individuals who feel hopeless
about the future, those who have been discharged
from a hospital, those who have a family history
of suicide, and those who have had
a suicide attempt in the past. Teenage years are difficult —
for today — they have been
for many, many years, but today, there seems to be
more social, and family and economic pressures. There’s also trauma,
both acute and chronic which can lead to emotional pain
and hopelessness. What we know
about the teenage years is that the teenage brain
is still developing, and it’s not completely developed
’til around age 26. The frontal cortex,
or the executive functioning is still growing when the teens
are in middle school and high school. What that means is that kids
are not able to make great decisions in the best case scenario. Then mix anger, anxiety,
fear, trauma, and the reptilian brain takes over
and moves into fight or flight. This is a primitive response. When the brain is in this mode, the cortisol and adrenaline
are pumping through a teen’s body which makes it very hard for them
to make good decisions. It’s important to note. So what are the suicide risk factors
and warning signs? Suicide risk factors vary with age,
gender and ethnic groups. They may occur in a combination
or change over time. Some important risk factors
are depression or other mental disorders,
substance abuse, a prior suicide attempt,
family history of suicide, access to firearms,
harming one’s self, like cutting, and exposure to suicide behaviors
of others. Some warning signs of suicide
is those threats of suicide. Someone saying something
indirectly or directly. Verbal hints like, “I’m not going to be around
much longer.” “It’s hopeless;
I’m feeling hopeless,” obsessions with death, an overwhelming sense
of shame, guilt or rejection, putting affairs in order,
for example, like throwing things away or giving away
favorite possessions, sudden cheerfulness
after a period of depression, dramatic change
in personality or appearance, irritability, changes in eating
and sleeping behaviors or patterns, and changes in school performance. It’s critical
to talk to the youth about depression and warning signs
that you are noticing. Depression is a biological issue,
like cancer or diabetes. We should be careful
not to see this as manipulation or attention seeking. In my professional opinion, there’s an overall
lack of awareness of mental health for youth and understanding depression,
anxiety, fear, sadness and loss. For teens, normal development
is individuation, raging hormones and their easiest emotion
to access is anger. Anger is a secondary emotion. The primary being loss, fear,
hurt and sadness. The most effective way to respond
is with a supportive response. We want to
keep the kids communicating. When kids are angry,
see that as a sign of engagement. When kids are screaming
and shouting, as my kids have, they’re really saying,
“I need you. “Please help me.” So it’s really important
as adults that we see that as a time
that we breathe, stop, listen, make sure that we understand
that it’s not about us, and engage with our teens. Responses like, “Wow, it seems like
this is really hard. “You seem sad. “Tell me more
how I can support you,” are great ways to help. The goal, again,
is not to take it personally. Breathe before you respond, and realize the anger
is not about you. Saying less, listening more,
and walking alongside, are great strategies. Overall wellness is what we strive for,
for our youth. One critical component
is resilience, or the ability to bounce back
from adverse conditions. The research tells us that having one supportive person
in a kid’s life makes all the difference. This could be a coach,
a scout leader, a neighbor, a bus driver. Don’t underestimate
your influence with youth. This drives down to the point that when you notice
a youth’s behavior changing, and you see them worried,
ask them. Ask them how they’re doing. If your gut tells you that they might be
hurting themselves, ask. You will never, never
plant the idea. There are ways
to reduce suicide risks, for example, therapy. There are individual families,
support groups for peers, that are very effective
and offer many modalities that can help support
and treat youth. If not in a crisis, and you need
mental health services, look on the back
of your insurance card to locate the direct number
to call a provider that best fits you. You have some brochures
on your seats on how to access
the mental health services in Snohomish County,
if you’re interested, so I hope that’s helpful. Thank you. [applause] Thank you Liza. I really appreciate your words, and, um, kind of allows me
to take a step back and think about my —
I don’t have kids, but I certainly interact
with — with teenagers and youth in a lot of different ways,
and I’m sure that’s true — we have
a pretty diverse audience. Some of you are probably parents. Some of you
are closer to being teenagers. Some of you might be grandparents
or just community members that — and all of us, you know,
have those opportunities to either make a good impact,
or — or none, or a bad impact in some ways. So, next, we will hear from Rena. If you’d like, come on up. [applause] And as was mentioned earlier, I manage an online
suicide prevention service at Volunteers of America. And the majority of our clients
are youth. So, I’m hearing directly
from kids in our community and communities
across the nation about what it is
that is troubling to them. I tried to select the things that I feel
you should all learn today, but there are so many more. Asking the question,
as we’ve heard a couple of times. Asking people
if they’re thinking about suicide does not make them suicidal. It actually gives them permission
to have a safe conversation about ideas
that they already have. The most comfortable way for most people
to ask about suicide is to put it in a way
that normalizes it for you the asker and for the person
to answer you honestly. So, an example
of what that looks like: “You look really down today. “Sometimes
when people are feeling sad, “they think
about killing themselves. “Have you had any thoughts
like that?” Another example would be,
“You seem really anxious. “A lot of people
think about suicide “when they are feeling
this anxious. “Have you had any thoughts
of killing yourself?” That framework is available
to all of you in a three-hour class
called “Safe Talk.” I put information on the handout
I left on your seats, on the back, about different
educational opportunities for you. Another very, very important thing
is restricting the means. An example
of what this can look like, I’m going to take
from my own personal life. My son was a student
at Kamiak High school during the two November suicides, and it induced
a significant trauma for him. So, during that time,
we locked up any guns that were remaining in the house into a place
that was not inside the house, so there was no way
he could access them. We removed all of the knives
from the kitchen, which, yes, you can survive without your
kitchen knives available. We secured his sword collection. We removed all medications
or supplements that could pose an overdose risk. If you’re not sure about something
that’s in your home, you can call Poison Control
and find out from them. Think about anything that could be used
to tie around the neck and remove
or reduce access to it. That’s just one example of what a typical family like mine
can accomplish to keep the person
you are concerned about safe. It’s also important
to understand the role that impulsivity plays. We often think
that the impulsive part is the death itself,
the act of killing oneself, but really, impulsivity
revolves around once the person
has made the decision. They have been
thinking about this, struggling through it
in a state of ambivalence, for quite a while
before they make the decision. It’s at the moment
they make the decision that impulsivity
becomes dangerous. The Suicide Prevention
Resource Center in their CALM training,
give the statistic that 25% of teens
who survived an attempt reported making the attempt
less than five minutes after deciding
to kill themselves. And while we may not be able
to prevent every suicide attempt, we can make it really hard
for people to die from them. Focus on safety
when you’re talking to someone that you know is struggling
with thoughts of suicide. What does the person feel
that they need to have happen to stay safe? Sometimes people resist
our first efforts of, “You need to go to the hospital.” “You need to go to the doctor.” “You need to go to the therapist,” and that’s very common. So, ask them what do they feel
needs to happen right now, for the next 24 hours,
to stay safe? And then help them
actualize that plan, whatever it is. There are phone apps, and I put the ones
that I like the best, also on that sheet
I left at your seats. You can tell the person
about the phone apps. You can help them load one
and help them fill out all of the informational boxes
or whatever they have for that particular app. An example of one is My Three. So you would help them select
three people in their community who they know they can rely on
for support, 24/7. And then there are
all different kinds of features in the different apps
to also help the person stay safe. A little mini safety plan. Get them help. Family and friends of the person
that you’re worried about, need to be involved. You can call the crisis line 24/7 to consult with
a mental health professional. Sometimes
when people are calling the — are thinking about calling
the crisis line, one of the things
that holds them back is they think that our crisis line is staffed with volunteers,
and it’s not. So, you truly can consult
with a mental health professional. Everyone who answers that line
is a master-level clinician. The other thing
that will hold people back from contacting the crisis line
is they have a belief that they have to be
in a suicidal crisis in order to make that call,
and you do not. We would love
to speak with people long before their crisis
evolves to the place where they’re
thinking about killing themself. When youth ask you for help,
give it to them. Kind of going along with
what Liza said: don’t assume
it is attention-seeking behavior. Children, teenagers, really can be
depressed and/or anxious. They can have
a genetic predisposition to have depression or anxiety. So you could be
a fantastic parent and still have a child
who is legitimately depressed or suffering
from an anxiety disorder. A lot of times as parents, we assume
that it is a reflection on us and we must have
failed in some way and that can hold us back
from getting help for our child. And we really need to consider
depression, and anxiety, and all the other disorders that make suicide
more likely to happen, as any other health condition. Treat it the same way you would if you were told that they
thought they had the flu or if they looked, to you,
like they might have a virus. Take them to their family physician
to get checked out. Find out what’s going on, what’s causing the symptoms
that they’re having. Something we can do
at the community level is change the language we use
to talk about suicide. We can stop using language
that promotes stigma. We can stop saying,
“commit suicide” and “my family member
committed suicide.” The words “commit” make it sound like
they have committed a crime. People don’t commit cancer;
they die from it; they’re a victim of it. We need to adopt the same kind
of language around suicide and refer to the people as
“dying by suicide” or “thinking about
killing themselves,” not about
committing heinous acts. Something we can all do
is volunteer in our communities. We have
great school opportunities. There are youth groups
and all kinds of other places where you can volunteer
to interact with children. As it was said earlier, many of the youth
report that they do not feel that they have a caring adult
in their life that they can get support from,
and that’s something that almost every single one of us
can do is volunteer somewhere where we can be a caring
adult influence on our youth. And I know that I am getting
the zero time sign, which this, I will tell you, is the closest I’ve got to finished,
so far, in the three panels. But the last thing is
just don’t underestimate the relationship and power
of bullying with suicide. Thanks. [applause] Thank you.
Thank you Rena. Really excellent specific tools
for us to take away, and, I think,
a really important reminder that language matters. So, our last speaker is Riley,
if you want to come on up. [applause] Hi everybody,
my name is Riley Kizziar, and I just graduated
from Kamiak this year. So, I’ll start
by letting you know about me. I’ve lived in Mukilteo
for the majority — or, excuse me,
for all of my life. And I’ve been
in the Mukilteo School District for the majority of my education,
and I’ve really enjoyed it here. But something I never
expected to see was suicide. I understood what it was
and what the definition was, but never imagined
that I would see its effects in my own life,
in our communities lives, and friends lives. So with that said, I’m not an expert
like these awesome people, but I do know what it felt like
to see people go through that, and to know people myself
who have struggled with it. So when it started happening
at Kamiak in our community, it was a huge shock to most of us —
or to all of us, excuse me. And something
that was going through my head and my friends’ minds was just,
“How could this happen here?” All of the sudden,
there were these walls broken down that showed people weren’t okay. And, um, there was just a huge vulnerability
all of the sudden that, you know,
people weren’t doing well. Like I said,
the walls came down. So looking back
and standing up here, it’s hard to explain
and represent all the students and all the experiences
and perspectives I’ve heard. But some of the things I remember
was just confusion, even anger, and of course,
just this deep sorrow for losing our friends,
our families. And, um, since then,
we’ve improved a lot which is really amazing. I’ve seen in my own school
we have specialists in there, and our counselors
have been, um, trained better now to deal with stuff like that. Teachers, and of course
the Crisis Line. I know of people who’ve used it,
and it’s really effective. But with that said,
and why I’m here tonight is because it’s still an issue,
and I can testify to that. I personally have people
in my life who struggle with mental illness, with suicidal thoughts
and attempts. Somebody told me
that after four months, I was the only person
who knew that they attempted, and that’s not okay. It’s — this isn’t
about blaming anybody, but just to show
it’s still an issue, and we all have
a responsibility to fix it — suicide and its influencers,
you know, mental illness or bullying,
low self-worth, bad home lives. That stuff still affects kids
every single day. Just because we don’t see it
doesn’t mean it’s not there. So what I’ve really
just discovered over my last few years
experiencing all of this and seeing people deal with it is that it’s ultimately
about somebody stepping in. Um, I agree
that we need more awareness and to continue
to talk about suicide and what leads to it,
because it is preventable. We might not be able to fix everybody’s individual
health conditions or home lives, but giving them
a positive way to deal with that is so important. I can testify
that when you’re younger, sometimes all you can see
are your problems, and when you remove
a support system with that, that creates a downward spiral
really quickly. So, you know,
we need that conversation. We need more resources
adding to what we already have. I had another friend who was struggling with thoughts
about committing suicide and, you know, I offered, “I’ll stay up with you,
and I’ll talk with you. “I’ll go talk to somebody
with you,” but even myself,
I didn’t know who that could be, outside of two or three options. So, adding to that,
continuing to talk is so important. And, like I said, we all
have a responsibility in it. To our leaders, we have to have
resources brought in. To parents, grandparents,
if you see your kids struggling, you need to step in
and ask what’s going on, while maintaining that respect. And then, you know,
students, friends. If you see somebody struggling,
you have to step in too. And I’ve been there. I know it’s scary to think
that one of your friends is feeling that way, but that’s where you have to stand
and, um, just stay with them. And you can ask for help too. Um, and to people
who might be struggling with it, or who have,
that’s why we’re doing this — to heal and get better. So, just in conclusion,
we all have a part in this, and it’s been a really tragic thing
that’s happened in our community, but we’re still trying to heal
and bring hope. So, thank you. [applause] Thank you so much Riley. I think you’re a great presenter
and a great speaker. And I think it’s a good — it’s really a reminder
to all of us in the audience, all of the adults here, of our common responsibility
to be involved. Because that’s such a huge weight for you to have, you know,
been that resource for your friends and been involved
in those conversations. We all,
we need to be there too, because that’s a big thing
to take on as a high schooler. So, now we would like to hear
your questions from the audience for our panelists. So if you have a question,
please raise your hand. I’ll call on you,
and we’ll make sure we get to just as many of you
as we can. We have a microphone, so, make sure to wait
for that microphone to get to you, and then speak directly into
the top of the microphone if you can. So, any questions
to start us off? All right, great, yes? So, I’m new to this area,
and I’d like to find out what the schools are doing
for any anti-bullying education. Um, and also —
that’s one question, and the second question is — I’ve not heard anything here
about the LGBT community, and it’s got
the highest rate of suicides, and if there’s any
GSA organizations in the schools or any programs
other than Trevor, which is a national —
but I mean local. So, that’s my question. Do any of you feel prepared
to answer the question about anti-bullying education
in the schools? Wendy? I know, actually,
part of the community plan that I mentioned
when I was talking is we’re trying
to get a baseline for what schools are doing
in the community, in the county. I’ve — one of Rena’s staff
is actually helping me with that project. Some have bullying curriculum, which usually consists of a —
an assembly, which we actually know now
is not a best practice. Um, so we’re trying
to move away from that and encourage them
to actually adopt suicide prevention curriculum
in their schools. There’s some legislation
that’s recently passed that’s asking school staff to be educated
in suicide prevention. Um, so that’s hopeful. Right now, we’re trying
to gather that information, because we would like to know, so we know
where to go from there, so that it’s consistent
across our community. As far as the LGBT issue, I actually work with a group
in Snohomish County, and it’s called The Globe, and it’s specifically
for LGBT youth that meets every Wednesday
in Everett. I can talk to you afterwards,
if you like. Um, a fantastic group. Fifty to sixty youth every week
attend. And you’re right;
they do have a high suicide rates. In our county,
we haven’t seen that number, but it is true nationally,
for sure. I would also say
that most schools have specific groups
for the GLBTQ community, and there’s also PFLAG
for parents, which is quite active. In addition,
one of the initiatives or things we are working on, through the county
and through our community, through the Wellness Committee
at Snohomish County, is we’re going to be helping
Snohomish County schools address trauma and look at,
not what’s wrong with our kids, but what’s been going on
with our kids and help them try to figure out,
you know, discipline issues, changing those, but generally more relationships
with kids so they’re not — when they’re angry,
we ask them what’s going on, versus sending them
to the principals. So that’s a strategy
that we’re working on right now. And also we have
an online chat program through our Crisis Line. So there is something local
besides Trevor project. It’s just not a specialty. But we work very hard to make sure
that our staff are trained, and we actually have
a lot of individuals on staff who identify
within the various communities through the LGBTQIA populations, and they have certainly
been invaluable in helping raise our awareness
around language and pronouns and all kinds of things
that make us more effective. Because in the chat format, we actually do get
a high amount of individuals who are identifying that persecution,
basically, is a huge factor and why suicide
has become an option for them. I know when I was at Kamiak,
there was a GSA group. I assume, Riley,
that that’s still the case. Yeah, there is a GSA club
at our school. I think it’s QSA now. But, they actually had a big part
in our MLK assembly this year, and they did a lot about educating our class,
our school, about their community and things,
so that was important. Great, I thought
I would also point out that there are
three school board members in the audience, and so, I know that they
take this issue really seriously, and they are listening
and engaged in the topic. Your question was
a really good example of a concise, specific question, and so I’m looking for another one
from our audience, yes? And then we’ll go to you Max
right over here. I’m Carolyn Hetherwick Goza
with NAMI, the National Alliance
on Mental Illness, and we teach a class for parents
of youth and adolescents that is national, um,
and twice a year. And this past year, we taught 90 of the teachers,
and instructors, and paras and all in the Mukilteo School District
this class, and had a very good response
with that. And then, we also offer
the free monthly — first Tuesday of every month class
for parents and caregivers of those diagnosed
or exhibiting symptoms of mental health issues,
and it meets at First Presbyterian Church
in Everett, directly across
from the courthouse. We’ve been doing this
for seven years, and we average
15 to 17 every week. And, um, these are graduates
and parents that are interested, and it’s always kind of like
a first step, and then we give them resources
from there. Thank you. Max, I think I saw
your hand next, and then other hands
while we’re transitioning here. Yes, you will be next. Thank you. Being a former
Kamiak student myself, I’ve had two friends who have committed —
or, excuse me, have died of suicide,
who were Kamiak students as well, and I’ve also
had suicidal ideation. I’ve attempted before,
so I’ve got the context there. From what I’ve experienced
in my history, it’s, it’s traumatizing to, you know,
hear your friends and hear loss. And I’ve also had a family member
I’ve lost to suicide. I’m just curious
on what it looks like on your respective areas
on what takes place after a suicide. As much as we would love to spend
tons of energy, time and people power to prevent it as best we can, what does it look like
afterwards and to educating, to engaging,
so that we — so the community has
that context to learn from it and to grow from it? Well, I’ll start and say, Max,
that you’re an awesome person, and, so, I’m glad
you’ve moved on from that, because you have
so many great things ahead of you. I’m a part
of the Marysville Coalition. I’m just thinking about, sort of,
some stuff that they have there. You know, I know one of the pieces
that’s really critical is for kids — if it’s, you know, if —
let’s just say there’s a kid who’s committed —
who has died by suicide. It’s really important for kids
to determine a process in which they want to, to —
what am I trying to say? You know, to… It’s important for them
to figure out — like in Marysville,
they planted tulips — for them to be a part
of the process. And, of course,
there has to be pieces of — you know, you don’t want this
to be a contagion piece, but —
and you have to contain it, but it’s critical that kids
are a part of the process and that people
are talking about it. And I think it’s really important
that we have conversations about the normal reaction
to losing someone to suicide. It is probably the most painful way
to lose someone because of all of the guilt
that goes with it of wondering, “Why didn’t I see something;
why didn’t I do something? “Could I have prevented this? “Could I have done
something different?” So, there is an elevated risk
for suicide among people who lose someone
that they have known or loved. We’ve — I mean, we’ve seen
the impact that it had in our school communities,
even with students who didn’t really know
the students who died. It, it very hugely impacted
their mental health in a negative way. And, so, I think we need
to really support people who have lost someone. And there are support groups
in the community. But, I just think
it’s really important that we acknowledge
how painful that is, and the reason
that people kill themselves is to escape emotional pain. It’s not event driven. It’s to make the pain stop. And so we really need
to focus our efforts on postvention, and I know there are postvention
toolkits out there for schools from places like the Suicide
Prevention Resource Center and American Foundation
for Suicide Prevention. So they are available, and we need to just make sure
we are accessing them. I had saw your hand,
and then we’ll go to you and then back there. Hi, my name is Alejandra Pidato,
and I’m originally from Texas, been here five years. And I just want to say thank you all so much
for doing this, because it’s about time. I mean, I think this is something
that should be discussed, not thrown under the rug
and pretend it didn’t happen. But what I did want to share was,
um… So, my son lost two friends,
death by suicide, and we don’t —
he’s in middle school, so that is extremely hard
and to this day it is. So, he is seeing someone for that. His friends always
keep coming to him for advice, or when they need somebody,
or they’ll come to my home, and I’ll let them stay there
for a while. But is —
here in Washington State, if a child goes to a counselor
and has these ideas, or thinks of it,
or anything of that, does the counselor,
“A,” report it, like to DSHS
or to the parent? Like, what steps are taken,
as far as that in a middle schooler? To my knowledge, um, everything
would be kept confidential if the child is 13 or older,
except for issues of harm. That has to be reported. And I don’t work in a school, so I can’t say
exactly what their policy is. I know for us,
when we’re talking to youth, it’s not an automatic report
to Child Protective Services because a youth is talking to us
about thoughts of suicide. There would —
there would need to be more than, than just
thoughts of suicide to warrant making the report. Um, but I do believe
that in the school they would involve the parent, and if there’s someone
in the audience from the schools
who can correct me if I’m wrong, I would encourage you to do so. But yeah, in Washington State,
13 is the age of consent for mental health treatment, so most of what
they would talk about would be kept confidential,
except for that. (female)
Harming themselves or others? Harming themselves or others, yes. Did you want to respond
to the schools and — and then — I just wanted to add
to what Rena said, in that that actually has been
an identified gap at the Health District
when we review childhood suicides, um, is that —
and it’s very frustrating. So there’s a gap in that — the, the student is receiving
all the services that they should be receiving, but then there’s no communication
with the schools, which is where they’re at
most of the time. So then an instance happens,
and the school says, “We had no idea
this child was struggling.” So, those,
those are policy pieces that we really need to work on
as a community. You know,
HIPAA is involved in that. But, it becomes a barrier when you’re talking about
our childrens’ safety, so — Good evening. I worked as
an intervention specialist with Seattle Public Schools
for a number of years, so, I came across
a lot of things. Kids writing notes about,
“I want to kill myself.” Coming into my office,
“I want to kill myself.” And I believe,
working in the schools, you are a mandated reporter,
meaning: if you hear something,
see something, say something. I had one young man
who had written a note. The teacher
came immediately to me. I went immediately
to the principal, and we took the child home. I went, school security went,
and the school counselor went. And we spoke to the parents
about what our concerns were. He was — he wasn’t expelled,
but he left school, but he was able to get
into a special program to work with him. I had another occasion
where another student had said in class,
“I want to kill myself,” and was cutting
and what have you. And two young men came
into my office and they literally lifted me
out of my chair. And I looked at them like,
“Are you crazy?” and they said, “We’re not going
to leave your office “until you take care of it.” I went in,
I spoke with the student, removed her from the classroom. So, I spoke with her mom later, and I happened to know her mother
from the community. And her mother blew me off,
“Oh girl, you know,” and I said,
“No, girl,” okay? I said, “If I know
and she says something “and she does something, “you can sue me
and the school district “and that will not happen.” And she did get some help, and she’s doing very well
right now. So, as a school community,
when things get presented to us, we are mandated reporters. And if you don’t feel comfortable, then you go to your principal
or whomever. But if they say it,
even if it’s a joke, it might not be. And we’re here for them. Thank you. Thanks, let’s see,
right up here, and then there,
and then you’ll be after that. My name’s Amy Dennis. I work with Kinship Caregivers
in Snohomish County. A lot of grandparents
raising their grandkids. Um, and my question really is
around supports for parents
and relative caregivers on the preventative side
of this. What resources —
what preventative resources are available to them that I as a professional
can tap into? A lot of kids that are living
with their relatives: Auntie, Uncle, Grandma, Grandpa,
Great Grandma, Great Grandpa — they have high ACE scores. They come from
very traumatic backgrounds. There may be
significant mental illness or behavioral issues, and Grandma and Grandpa
are tired. They’re really tired. So, what can —
what can we offer them, and what, um — I guess, what’s the
ongoing conversation around that? That’s a great question. Um, without going into
all the resources, that’s a part of my job, is to help providers
like yourself, counselors I talk with, about finding the right resources
in our community around mental health. So, I’d be happy
to talk with you afterwards, or, from that brochure,
you can call me. There are many resources, and there are gaps,
I have to say, unfortunately, but I would be happy
to talk with you about that. It’s a great question. And define ACEs,
for those of the crowd that don’t know
what that stands for. ACEs is
Adverse Childhood Experiences. So there is a list of — there’s a quiz
you can actually take, the Adverse Childhood
Experience Quiz. And there’s ten questions on there
that talks about, “Have you ever had a family member,
been in jail? Have you ever been
sexually abused?” The questions go on and on. And, if you have, you know,
you add up those points and, um, it sort of tells you
how many — how much trauma you’ve had. And it’s safe to say
that most of us have had some trauma. Some have had more than others. It certainly affects —
can affect health. Can affect a lot of things
in ones life. If you want to know a little more
about ACEs, the Health District produced an ACEs report
for Snohomish County, and I brought some copies of that
out on the resource table. It gives data about ACEs
in our county and actually describes
what they are. All right, great. So, right back there,
and then here, and then we’ll go to you two. So, yes.
There we go. Okay, my name is Gretchen, and I want to thank you,
um, I forget your name. (Riley Kizziar)
Riley. (audience member)
Okay, you used a beautiful word, which was to be “with” someone,
and so, that was lovely to hear, because I think that’s
what we all have to do when all the questions
or the linear things are said, if we’re not with somebody,
it doesn’t mean the same thing. So, thank you. But my question was about those,
those things that pertain to suicide. The last thing was something to do
with problem solving. What was the name you gave that? They had poor —
something or other skills. Crisis resolution skills. (audience member)
Crisis resolution — (Wendy Burchill)
Which, again, is probably related to the development of —
well, appropriate development of — adolescents don’t technically —
typically have good crisis resolution skills — (audience member)
So what do you do in the schools? (Wendy Burchill)
— but it’s something we can work on. (audience member)
What are we doing as a community, because it kind of pertains
to the “with,” because, um, I think if people
don’t feel people are with them, it’s more of a crisis. But what’s being done
about that particular piece of it? At this point,
nothing that I’m aware of. Do you think something should be done? Absolutely. (audience member)
Yeah, me too. (Rena Fitzgerald)
At Crisis Center conferences, that is a very common topic
at the table is — everybody’s saying, “What are the high schools doing
about suicide prevention?” and the conversation
really needs to be, “What are kids learning
in kindergarten “about coping skills?” I can answer
a little bit about that. I work in
an elementary school office for the Mukilteo School District, and our psychological team,
our counselors, are amazing people. They have, probably,
15-plus years or more of experience, and they are reaching these kids. Um, what I was going to say
about the crisis skills. There are social groups going on that the psychologist
will pull kids out. They’ll have these talks
about how to manage things. It starts there. But, um, yeah,
it goes way beyond that scope, and that’s when the parents
and administration gets involved. I think as a society, we don’t
talk about emotions too much. You know, we’re — the spectrum
from sadness to elation is a normal spectrum, and we don’t talk about
our feelings too much. So, to encourage
how our feelings — and to talk about it
in a deeper way with our kids from when they’re really young
is a good start as well. So, right over here
in the second row with the awesome hat. I’m glad I wore this hat. Hi, I’m Madison. I, um, am a survivor
of self harm and three suicide attempts,
and this is, like, my life’s work, and my goal and my purpose
to, like, bring attention, and so I’m so glad
that this opportunity arose, especially when I’m in town,
because I’m in school in Olympia. I dedicate my entire university career
to this topic. Anyways, um, being a survivor,
the most helpful things, for me, have been validation of my pain. So, even something as simple as you hear someone
talk about their problems of youth, and you just say,
“Dude, that sucks,” and mean it,
because it does. That’s, like,
the most helpful thing, just validating
that their emotions are valid, like, um,
and secondly, not feeling alone
and isolated in the pain, because when I found friends
or other people that have gone through
similar things and have experienced
similar emotions as I have, it made me feel good,
validated, better. Anyways, I was wondering what kind
of platforms do you think could be implemented
or that are implemented right now that could make youth feel,
like, a part of something and not feel so alone
with their intense emotions? If that makes sense. We were just saying
that’s a hard question. [laughter] Um, I think it goes back to — again, data tells us that
being connected to a caring adult — and it sounds so simple,
but it goes so far, and a lot of people, I think,
in their homes feel like they’re connected
to their youth, but maybe not in the way that youth want to be connected
to their families. Or maybe there’s barriers there because there’s other abuse,
or drugs, or alcohol in the home. So that’s why we’d like —
we’re trying to make a shift toward more compassionate schools,
more compassionate systems, to where the bus driver
reaches out to the kids every day, or the lunch person
reaches out to the kids every day. Because it could just be
that comment that, “Yeah, you have
a really cool hat on,” and that could — that could,
you know, really save that kid that day. So we can’t underestimate the contacts
that we have with youth, whether they are our own,
or our neighbors, or just our students
in our classroom. Um, what those small things mean
to those kids who may be hurting. And a lot of times,
we can’t tell that they’re hurting. I know a lot of the kids —
like I mentioned in our reviews, they’re very —
they’re high-functioning youth that you would be very surprised
are struggling. So, having that connection
to an adult that they feel that they can trust
that won’t judge, but rather validate their feelings,
is really, really important. How we get there,
or do better at it, is something
I think we need to work on. All right,
we had two questions over here, so we’ll go to you, and then you,
and then you and back there. Right there, yes, her, yes. She’s next,
I decided. Hi, my name is Crystal, and I just wanted to thank you guys,
really, for being here. I appreciate it,
and for everyone in the community. I’m a tutor,
and I’m a professional tutor. I’ve tutored a lot of kids
from the area from Jackson High, Bothell High, Kamiak, and a lot of my students
are very high achievers. They have a lot of pressure, and they knew a lot of the students
who had died by suicide. And, so we took some time out
to talk about it, and I found out a lot of them,
like Riley was saying, were really frustrated. There were a lot of emotions,
and anger, and, you know, I encouraged them,
or I asked the question, you know, “What are the schools doing?” and I encouraged them
to call for a forum like this. And I know one of them did
and kind of got involved, so I appreciate
that this is happening in opening this up. But, I was also wondering what, what efforts can be made
in the schools to kind of connect
with the students and really engage them
in the process of building community or addressing these questions? You know, because a few
of the students were, um, inspired. They thought they might want
to start a group and just start talking. Have the students talk about
what had created it and what could be done. I know a lot of them
were really overwhelmed with grief and sadness
in their loss, so I don’t know
if that ever got underway. But, I don’t —
I was just wondering if there’s being anything done
in the schools or within the community
that we can do to really engage them
and be active, like you were saying,
in that process, and get their input
in what might be needed. So, what are some best practices
of things that we could be doing or that you’d be excited to see
happening in our schools? I would be — I think that the schools
are exploring their options, and I’m sure
that they have implemented things that we don’t know about, which is why we’re in the process
of contacting them to find out what they are doing. But, I think we put a lot of pressure
on our schools to do our jobs as parents
and community members. We also expect kids to be able
to get really good SAT scores, and pass all the state exams, and get into the best universities
in our nation. Um, so I do think that there are things that can be done
in the school, and there are things
that are being done in schools, and there are tool kits out there
for schools. But, I would like to see
more emphasis put on what we can do
with our own children. I know a lot of parents
who believe that good parenting is that
you have your children enrolled in eight extra-curricular activities
and three foreign language classes, and they spend all of their time
driving their children around until they are old enough
to drive themselves around. And I don’t know
that there’s a lot of meaningful
connected conversations and relationship happening
in that family system. We are — we have created
this very high-pressured lifestyle for our community,
for ourselves, for our nation. I don’t necessarily think
we can stop that. I, I would venture to guess that I could not convince
one person in this room to give away their smart phone. Um, so I think
we really need to focus, not just on
what the schools can do, but what we can do
in our families so that our children
and our teens feel like they can tell us
what’s going on. One of the things that I learned
in the chat program, that surprised me,
is how many youth report that they are not
telling their parents the feelings that they’re having,
the problems that they’re having, because they don’t want
to contribute to the pressure
that their parents are under. They recognize that their parents
are stressed to the maximum, and they already
feel like a burden, and they don’t want to become
more of a burden on their families. So, that’s kind of
my personal opinion and my professional opinion,
to a certain degree, based on what I’m seeing
and what I’m hearing from youth. Other thoughts? No? Okay, just behind her
and then up to here. Hi, I’m Allie. I came here
as part of a school assignment, but I’m getting so much more
out of this than I thought, so I really appreciate
all you guys talking. There’s some research out there that connects affiliation
to religious, um, organizations and decreased risk of suicide
and decreased incidence of suicide. My question is:
how do you guys see involvement of local religious organizations
and local churches in the schools, and how open are the schools
if there’s such an initiative from the local
religious community? I think a big part
of that data that’s saying
that it’s a protective factor is that they actually
have a sense of community, whether it be
a religious organization, or a scouting organization,
or — they’re a member
of a community, and I think
that is the important part. Um, as far as having
that connection to the schools, I’m not — I’m not clear
if that’s there or if that’s something
they would welcome. Yeah, I would say the same thing. I think the most important piece is if we’re trying
to build coping skills and build resilience for kids, which is the ability to bounce back
from hard situations, is connecting kids to sports,
to civic groups, to church groups, whatever, is important,
and based on a kid’s values is to increase supportive systems for children, youth,
you know, adolescents. It’s about providing a community. It’s about providing a space where they can, you know,
chill out. Where they aren’t
having to do anything. It’s sort of the whole balance
for a kid, because it’s — you know,
to reiterate what Rita was saying, you know, just having dinner hour
is critical. And actually that refers to,
if kids have dinner hour, they go to– there’s a higher percentage
of kids going to college. It’s about talking about
what their life is like, and their feelings,
and being connected as a family, and feeling self-efficacy,
and self esteem, and all those important pieces that we want our kids to have,
you know? I also think that kids
are so pressured right now, so, so pressured. So anything we can do as a community
to bring it down and remember
what our needs are — is it our needs that our kid go
to an Ivy League college? What are our needs? And to check in with ourselves
about that, because I think
we project so much on our kids where we can just increase,
increase, increase, that they have to
get great grades. They have to, you know,
do all these amazing things, be on, select everything. It’s a whole lot
for a kid to handle in addition to just their own life
of trying to fit in. So, I think it’s —
again, just to emphasize, it’s critical
that we check in with ourselves about what is ours
and what we want for our kids. All right,
so we have the front row. We have the brilliant orange jacket,
the back row, and then over here in the yellow. Okay, go ahead. Well, I have a fair amount
of direct experience with these issues, and, um, I found
that interacting with the system is quite frustrating. I think
one significant source of risk, which isn’t really brought out
very much on this ACEs thing, although they do mention
whether people are insulting you, putting you down,
swearing at you — a significant risk factor
is emotional abuse at home. And particularly
in broken families. And my own experience
is that CPS is really not interested. They really can’t help with that. The courts don’t really touch it,
and if you can see it happening, there’s not much you can do
to help your child. My child attempted suicide
last year. Uh, once seriously
and then ended up in the hospital, and then the other time
less seriously, but he was still trying. And he’s now been diagnosed
with major depression, PTSD, you know, the normal things
that go with that. But I feel rather helpless
to help him, because I, I can’t remove the source
of a lot of his stress in life. Um, and I actually don’t feel — I mean, he’s seeing a psychologist
and all the rest of it, but they kind of say
there’s not a lot they can do. Um, so — I guess what I think about is,
I’m sorry. It sounds really difficult. I first want to say that to you. I don’t know the source of who —
where that’s coming from, whether that person can — he cannot have that relationship. That’s a piece of this. But, I think also is coping strategies
of how to respond, and how to take care of oneself, and how to get boundaries —
you know, set up strong boundaries, and hopefully, you know, the support system that’s
working with him is helping that. Um, but I think that those pieces
are really critical. And I think you brought up
another important issue that we need to talk about. We talk a lot about peer bullying,
but we don’t talk a lot about the bullying that happens
in our communities from adults to our youth. And emotional abuse
is a type of bullying. Um, and it is very difficult
to have a child removed for emotional abuse, because it doesn’t leave bruises
and other evidence you can take photos of. But I do think that is
a very, very important thing that we need to address
as a community, and if we can’t take care
of the problem in the legal system, what can we do to support
the victims in our communities? And, you know, looking at
where else in our youths’ worlds are they subject to being bullied
by other adults? And instead of being quiet about that
when we see it happening, demand that it’s addressed
and stopped. Thanks. So, we’ll go back to —
she’s on her way. And we had the back row, yellow. Hi, my name is Sandy, and, um, I just kind of wanted
to bring to the radar something that I didn’t hear
mentioned up there, just from my experience. I have a son,
graduated six years ago and he was — he’s the kid that all the girls
wanted to talk to. He’s like —
he has an ear to, to help. And, so, my house was just a home
where a lot of the kids would come, because they wanted to talk
or, you know, of what they were feeling. But for my son,
when he was in the 7th grade, I remember going to the counselor and all these kids
would talk to him and tell them his problems,
their depressions and everything, and, um, to where my son
was getting stressed out about just everything coming,
but he still wanted to help. And he still does that today,
and he’s 25, and, so, my experience was,
the kids that come to my house, they didn’t have anybody else
to talk to. And, so I feel like as parents
that have — that are able to open up their home
to these kids that want to talk, I think we are a big part
of what needs to happen. One particular time,
my son didn’t want to go to school and, um — and I talk to my kids
all the time. I said, “You’re going to school.” I said, “You’re not missing school.” And he never gets out of hand
or yells or anything like this. This particular day,
he raised his voice and just, kind of,
was just kind of forceful about it. And he finally told me
he didn’t want to go to school, because a girl called him and told him
she was going to kill herself. And so, back then,
I didn’t know where to go to, but I let him go sit with her, um,
and talk with her, but the main — the main trouble
behind what he was dealing with that what I didn’t hear
up on the panel was that a lot of girls,
7th grade and even in high school, have lost their virginity
and didn’t want to — and felt — felt just awful
about it to where it just kind of
ripped them apart. So, he dealt a lot with that, and I didn’t hear that
mentioned up there as far as, you know,
that subject, because that takes a lot away
from a female, and that’s a lot
that he’s had to deal with. So, my house had become
just a home where people can — I mean, where the girls can
kind of come through and talk. And some of them
just needed a hug. So, you know,
I think we need to focus on more parents probably
getting involved. That’s my experience. Uh, you know, it certainly
would fit into trauma, whether it’s something that’s
recognized as a sexual assault by the larger society and community,
or not. That can be
a very traumatic experience for a young female, um,
or a female of any age. And definitely we speak
with a lot of youths who are the victims
of sexual assault and, um, I think that’s another
great point to bring up in our communities
is victim blaming and how we make it so hard for people
to get the help that they need because of the second trauma
we put them through in the process
of getting that help. And, definitely, something
that we can play a role in at the community level
as you and your son have done. All right, the back row. Much of what I wanted to say has already been addressed
in the last few minutes, but my comment had to do with —
that many of the kids that I know who have been very depressed
and even a suicide that took place
at Kamiak High — not at Kamiak — at Cascade High School
this last year, I believe, were students who are
of the high-achieving folks, and who, like you say,
feel so much pressure and, um, I don’t know what it is
we can do as a culture and I know as a parent, I feel like
I probably contributed to that. We expect a lot
out of our students and for them
to do their very best, but sometimes it’s too much, and they don’t know
how to tell us that. And if they’re introverted,
they don’t talk about it. So, those are just things
to be aware of. And, um,
it’s just so hard to see when we don’t know —
someone has died, and we don’t know what,
what the reasons were. And sometimes I think
that’s where it comes from, those expectations
and those, um, that people — I think when kids
get to where they feel stuck is another part of the pain. They don’t feel they have an out
or a way to deal with it without, you know, disappointing
themselves or other people. One comment about the woman
who mentioned how children who — and youth
who are involved in churches, it’s a very big,
helpful support system. I agree that it’s the, the
community support that’s important. I believe churches
are a big part of that, but be aware that there are
many churches in our community who look at LGBT kids
as an abomination, and this contributes
to their difficulties, their depression and even sometimes
suicide attempts. So, those of you
who are members of churches, please think about that. It’s a big deal,
and I believe God loves everybody, no matter what. Thanks. Um, over here, and then I saw your blue shirt;
Richard and then you. I have to write all this down. Okay, you’re next. Hi, I had a question
about when you — the brain development
of the 18 to 26 year old. What do you do
when you have a adult child that you recognize
mental health issues in? What are resources
for parents to deal with that? That’s a great question. It’s different
when there’s an adult versus a kid, because an adult
gets to make their own decisions. So, it’s a struggle. Um, what I would say is trying to get
people who support that adult and letting them know
how much you care about them, and what you’re seeing,
and what you’re scared of, and what resources are there,
and how you can support them is what you hope to do. It depends on the level. If they’re in crisis
or if they’re going to hurt someone, that’s a whole other situation because then you have the right
to potentially detain them, but I’m assuming that you’re just
talking about needing supportive services. Yeah, they get to make the decision
on their own whether they want it or not,
and that’s really painful at times. So, um, you know,
taking it step by step, and I’m happy
to talk to you more about that. And I would just like
to add to that. That’s probably one of the most
frustrating scenarios for navigating systems. And we do have a great resource
right here in the room. NAMI, they provide
wonderful resources for families. You know,
you really need to make sure that you are
being taken care of as well because of the high levels
of frustration involved around that scenario
of trying to get your adult child to get the help
that they don’t think they need or they don’t want. Um, so definitely
get resources for yourself so that you
can be as empowered as — and as healthy as possible to continue the struggle
that it can be to get help for that individual. It’s just a great modeling. Yeah, that’s really important. Okay, so I have questions from —
next is in the back row, and then we have Richard,
and then you. Then — how are we on time? Five minutes? Okay, so we’ll take you guys, and then we’ll see if we can
take one more after that. So, go right ahead. Hi, um, first of all, I would like to say
I like what you said about keeping kids involved
in activities, whether it be music
or just things that they enjoy. I think that’s really important. And secondly, I had a question
about if there’s peer support groups inside of the schools — other students that these kids
can go to in times of need or students that reach out
to other students that — you know, maybe, like,
it’s the kid that’s eating alone at lunch every day. You know, just things like that. Someone that’s being bullied or someone that they can see
might need help. In Kamiak,
I know we started, two years ago, a group called Natural Helpers, and we’re focused
on being the bridge for those kids
who need further help or just somebody to talk to. Our big focus has been listening. And they’re continuing that
next year. There’s a few of us here, um,
that will be taking over. And that’s been really awesome. We did a documentary showing, too,
called “Paper Tigers,” and that was focused
on at-risk teens, so we definitely have been doing
a lot in the schools that are focused on reaching out to those kids
who are feeling alone or just need
somebody to talk to. That’s great.
Uh, Richard? Third row there;
so, yeah, there he is. Great, thank you. Um, I think part of my question
was just answered. Sometimes I look at things
from a different perspective, and I wanted to, first of all,
say I’m really impressed by all the people
who are here and how clearly we care
about our children and our community. I really appreciate being here. And there’s a lot of discussion
about resources that are available, but one of the questions
that just crossed my mind is, in terms of helping people
access services, or reach out, or find resources
that would be helpful to them, who’s asking the kids
what will work? What they want;
how things can work better. There was just mentioned
peer groups. The process that you mentioned
at Kamiak sound like excellent programs,
but one of the best ways to help anyone get to, um,
get connected is to ask them what they need, and what are the obstacles
that are in their way. Because we have the resources,
and the skills, and the experience
to provide those, but we usually have to ask
the people that we care about what would really work. Thanks, and then next
right in front. So second row,
on your side, again. I am a mental health counselor, and I work with the
employee assistance program with one of our school districts so I see both kids —
I see families, I see teachers, I see people
who work in the school district. And I was — came across a book
called a “Race To Nowhere,” if anybody’s familiar with it, Vickie Abeles —
and she’s now come out with “Beyond Measure,”
and I would love to see the documentaries
that she’s put together come into the communities because the “Race to Nowhere”
is about the problem and “Beyond Measure”
is about the solutions to it, and it has to do with so many
of the questions and things that people
have brought up here. Thanks, are we —
do we need to close? We have time for one more. Yes, go ahead. Oh, but you have to wait
for the microphone, just like
at city council meetings. I just have to comment that the Washington
Administrative Code — one of the eligibility criterion
for special education is emotional behavioral issues. And, um, we can do an IEP meeting
at the schools. The schools don’t like
to pay for special ed people, but I have gone with at least 40,
50 of my parents to IEP meetings and especially the high achievers
and the anxiety and depression — most of the time females. Um, we can get them in special ed where we have
the special ed teacher who can give them
some personal attention, and then if the school district
can’t provide it, there is a schools that —
private schools that the school district
would have to pay for that is meant for that. Overlake Specialty School
is one of those, and we help the parents
go through the process, and help the teens,
and help hook them up. So, there is something
in the schools that we can help them and give them
some special attention. Thank you. So, it sounds like we’ve come to the end
of our time. (male)
[inaudible] I’m not the boss. Do we have time for one more? (male)
[inaudible] Okay, I am the boss. We have time for one more.
Go ahead. [laughter] Sorry that I missed you. I’m Dan.
Daniel McMullen. Uh, it looks like
we’ve been skirting the issue of how faith helps —
can help here. Robert Spencer did a recent —
did a — with other people, did a study of over 2,000 people,
and he found that those that had no faith
were much more prone to suicide than those that did have faith. It seems — and another thing
that I think would be very good is show some of the heroes of our —
of our — that have built our society, because they went through
problems like this, and they overcame them, and if the kids
get to know about them then they can study them,
look into them and look into the religious part which is forbidden in the Catholic —
in the public schools. All right, thanks. Um, so now we have come
to the end of our time. Um, we — I want to make sure
that you know that we have an opportunity
to talk with our panelists and with each other. So, if you’re like
a lot of people and you don’t want
to ask a question in a large group
with cameras on you, you have a chance
to gather in the lobby, and also the Rosehill Room
which is that little room that angles off from the lobby,
and talk with the panelists. And those of you
that asked about resources, you know,
have a conversation with them about what’s available. So, if you are looking
for more information beyond that after tonight, there’s resources
on the Sno-Isle Library’s website. It’s sno-isle.org;
there’s a hyphen in there. And the library system
would appreciate any suggestions on how to improve
Issues That Matter forums or ideas that you have
for future topics. So, if you haven’t done it yet, there was a evaluation, I think,
probably on your seat. It looks like it might be
the purple sheet. So, make sure to complete that
before you head out, and put those in the box
that’s by the door. And then finally, join me
in a round of applause — applause for our panelists
and to you, our audience. [applause] We’ve heard such thoughtful
questions and comments, and as the mayor
of your community, I’m so appreciative
that you took some time out to think about the members
of our community that need our support, and to really get engaged
on this issue. So, feel free to wander
out to the lobby to chat so that our staff
can take down all of the equipment. And thank you so much,
and have a good night. [applause]

2 thoughts on “Teen Suicide: An Issues That Matter Forum

  1. That was excellent information, I really appreciated all the time and care people have for our young people. It helps me to be aware, see the many ways in connecting a caring ear without judgement. Thank you.

  2. I know this person… I shared a class with her sister. It was really sad. Nobody talks about it. I'm glad that people are taking action to raise awareness for our friends here in Mukilteo by getting help for those a in need of our helping hands. Thank you Mukilteo.
    -11 year old citizen of mukilteo

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