When students are at school, they are surrounded by adults trained to identify signs of depression and suicide, says Julianne Repman, facilitator for Bend-La Pine Schools' Safe Schools Alliance. In the summers, however, students don't have the same access to resources they have during the school year, she says.
"With summer vacation just weeks away, Safe Schools Alliance partners want to ensure that parents and students have the resources they need to proactively engage their friends and loved ones in meaningful ways that both help and provide hope to those at risk," said High Desert Education Service District Superintendent John Rexford.
The Safe Schools Alliance is the district's program to "provide safe and secure school environments through community and interagency partnerships."
"The majority of people who die [by suicide], have a problem that is treatable," laments Will Berry, medical director for Deschutes County. "If they are struggling, there are opportunities for them to seek help. They can come in and talk to someone who will make a sincere effort to get to know them."
When it comes to interventions, the Hope & Help Education Series is aimed at being part of the solution. Susan Keys, a National Youth Suicide expert who lives in Bend, says the series isn't new, but what is new is its focus on parents and students. The upcoming sessions are aimed at middle and high school students, and parents of students, though all are welcome.
Hope & Help sessions are aimed at showcasing resources that people may not be aware of in Bend, and normalizing the conversations about suicide. There will be tools for youth to help them navigate what they see in online or on social media, including the new Netflix show, "13 Reasons Why," about a high school girl who commits suicide and leaves tapes for people to listen to after her death.
A collaborative effort between Deschutes County, Bend Police and the Safe Schools Alliance, the program includes a number of interactive sessions in the next month, with the first one in Redmond May 31. The Bend session is on June 12; Sisters hosts June 14. Due to high demand, the sessions now include later dates in La Pine and Prineville as well.
"Many people are not aware of what's available here, so we want people to be educated and informed," said Cheryl Emerson, a private therapist and suicide prevention expert in Bend. She talked about how promoting help-seeking behavior is something that everyone can do.
"We absolutely do not want to silence any discussions— that creates part of the stigma [around talking about suicide,]" Emerson said.
Repman also mentioned that although these education sessions are aimed at young people, the highest number of deaths by suicide in Deschutes County are in people aged 25 to 64; one of the reasons why the sessions are not limited to parents and youth.
"Suicide is a serious but preventable community health issue," said David Visiko, a suicide prevention coordinator with Deschutes County Health Services. "We want to empower parents and youth to talk about suicide in hopeful, preventative ways."
Suicide prevention resources:
'273TALK' to 839-863
Crisis walk-in center at 2577 NE Courtney, Bend
Hope & Help Education Series
May 31, 6-7:30pm. High Desert Education Service District, Redmond
June 12, 6-7:30pm. St. Charles Medical Center, Conf rooms A&B, Bend
June 14, 6-7:30pm. Sisters High School, Sisters
July 17, 6-7:30pm. La Pine High School, La Pine
July 26, 6-7:30pm. Barnes Butte Elementary School, Prineville