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Staff ask potentially suicidal students whether they have unbearable emotional pain and a trusted support system.

       Parents attending the Oregon City School District's Family Focus Forum this weekend can attend an array of presentations from experts, including several workshops focusing on various aspects of suicide prevention.

One of the presenters, Oregon City parent Jeanna Gannon-Gonzales, will discuss the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention "Talk Saves Lives" curriculum she is hoping the district will adopt.

Gannon-Gonzales said she also plans to speak at the next school board meeting to encourage the district to boost funding for mental health.

Currently the district doesn't have staff members who can provide professional mental health therapy.

More to the story

When people hear about the recent death by suicide of a fourth-grader at Holcomb Elementary School, they want to know why. We look at how the Oregon City School District responded.

Assistant Superintendent Kyle Laier said all school staff are trained to question any student who says something that sounds like a suicidal intention, asking something like, "What do you mean you don't want to live anymore?"

If the student says he or she is thinking of suicide, staff are then instructed to take that student to a school screener.

Gannon-Gonzales said this approach to questioning students suspected of suicidal intentions matches with her understanding of best practices.

Check it out

What: Oregon City School District's annual day of workshops geared for parents

When: 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1

Where: Oregon City High School, 19761 Beavercreek Road

Keynote speaker: Shauna Tominey, assistant professor at Oregon State University, is the author of "Creating Compassionate Kids: Essential Conversations to Have With Young Children"

More info/register: click here

"It's perfectly acceptable to ask someone whether they have suicidal thoughts, because research says that it doesn't put into their heads that suicide is an option," she said.

"If someone is experiencing suicidal ideation, it gives them some relief to have someone ask them about suicide."

Laier, who leads the district's suicide prevention efforts, said every building has at least one staff member who is trained in conducting an initial mental health assessment, to screen children suspected of suicidal intentions.

This screener would then interview the student and fill out a Level 1 Suicide Risk Screening Form to help determine if a Level 2 assessment by a qualified mental health professional is warranted.

Screeners at the school ask potentially suicidal students whether they have a plan for suicide and inquire about previous attempts, emotional pain that feels unbearable and a trusted support system.

"We know that people don't know what to do if they're not trained," Laier said. "So, we do initial QPR training for all our staff members and reminders are sent out in every staff email, so that through repetition everyone know what to do if a child says something that sounds suicidal."

Laier said it's important to remember that everyone hears about students who die, "but you don't know about all the students we save.

"It's all of our responsibility to try and save a life," he added. "Knowledge and training of what to do is what everyone can do to help."


Raymond Rendleman
Editor, Clackamas Review/Oregon City News
971-204-7742
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