BEND, OR -- Suicide continues to be one of the leading causes of death of Oregonians; teen suicide rates are equally troubling. The Bend area has already lost two people under the age of 24, this year. Local school districts, law enforcement and mental health professionals are now working together in an effort called "Youth Suicide Hope and Help." The collaboration was announced at a Monday press conference in Bend.
Susan Keyes is an Associate Professor at OSU Cascades who has researched suicide for the last 30 years. She believes the new joint effort will help. "The good news is that we have this excellent collaboration; we have excellent programs and excellent services and excellent support. But, the bad news is we're still losing people." She's pleased to see a shift in approach that gets kids involved in prevention. "We cannot make a dent in suicide prevention if we don't have young people as part of this collaborative. Young people are our eyes and ears in the spaces of social media. Young people are our eyes and ears with their peers; they see things we don't and they see things before we do."
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Oregonians between the ages of 15 and 24. Keyes says first and foremost, adults need to be open to the conversation, "Don't be afraid to ask someone, 'Are you suicidal? Are any of your friends suicidal?' Don't be afraid to ask. And, don't be afraid if the answer is something you don't want to hear."
Youth mental health specialist Cheryl Emerson agrees. She says parents need to better prepare kids for the challenges in life. "What can we do to build resiliency? What can we do to promote help-seeking behavior and normalize that as a really good thing to do? How can we do that as a community?"
In the coming weeks, the "Hope and Help" coalition will offer evening sessions around Central Oregon to help parents and teens get involved and learn more about suicide prevention. Each session is 6-7:30 p.m.:
May 31 at High Desert ESD in Redmond
June 12 at St. Charles Bend, Conference Rooms A & B
June 14 at Sisters Middle School
Click HERE for more information on the events and suicide prevention resources available in Deschutes County.