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Oregon: "Alarming" increase in youth suicides; schools to focus on prevention

Mar 1, 2020, Fox12, Beaverton, OR: Salem-Keizer Public Schools prioritizing mental health in classrooms to address youth suicide With youth suicides in Oregon climbing at alarming rates, public health officials, lawmakers and schools are starting to prioritize mental health as a cornerstone of public education. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) tracks youth suicides, which it defines as young people between the ages of 10 and 24. According to OHA, preliminary state data shows youth suicide increased by 26 percent in 2018. The number of children, teens and young adults taking their own lives has more than doubled in the past decade. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Oregon youth. The trend in Oregon follows a national phenomenon: youth suicides across the country increased by 56 percent from 2007 to 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The study, published in October 2019, also found that suicides tripled in the same time frame for children ages 10 to 14. The exact blame of the spike is hard to pin down, according to OHA’s youth suicide prevention coordinator, Jill Baker. Rather, health experts believe increased anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts stems from a multitude of issues. Baker said increased screen time, online bullying and social media are thought to be contributing factors in emotional issues teens and children face…. The district told FOX 12 it’s now surveying and tracking students’ psychological well-being and incorporating age-appropriate mental health lessons at every grade level. Schools in the district are also expanding employee suicide-prevention training. Now, even bus drivers, cafeteria workers and custodians will know the warning signs to look for in distressed students…. The Oregon Health Authority wants to see more programs like these in schools across the state, and for the first time, it has the resources to help. Lawmakers recently dedicated $6 million over a two-year period to youth suicide prevention. Baker said the funding will allow OHA to form more partnerships, develop curriculum, and offer grants for training and other suicide-prevention education. … This coming fall, school districts statewide will be required to have specific suicide prevention and intervention plans. The law comes from Senate Bill 52, also known as Adi’s Act, that passed in July….


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