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Spokane Schools Address Suicide in Public Forum

Mental health counselors say one of the most telling symptoms from someone who is depressed and considering suicide is a radical change in behavior. In children, look for irritability and sudden anger. Those were two of many points made during a recent community forum on suicide at Lewis and Clark High School. It was sponsored by Spokane Public Schools.

What happens when your child tells you they want to kill themselves?

“I actually had my child say that to me.”

Misty Southall is a clinical supervisor at Passages Family Support in Spokane. She was one of the panelists at the forum.

“She was in the ninth grade and she was struggling in and out of depression. My biggest thing was what can I do to make you feel safe? We ended up in the hospital that night and I slept on the floor and stayed with her all night,” Southall said.

Southall says her daughter had other hospital stays, but eventually, with professional help and family support, worked through her issues. She went to college, is now 23 and apparently doing well.

Several panelists advised that if your child or someone you know is talking about suicide, get help. They say mental health issues are not something families should try to overcome themselves.

If someone close to you is talking about having those feelings, don’t overreact and don’t judge them, says Staci Cornwell from Frontier Behavioral Health.

“Even though you might not have had suicidal thoughts yourself and you might be able to relate to that, you definitely can relate to feelings of sadness, feelings of hopelessness and despair,” Cornwell said.

Cornwell says the best thing you can do with someone struggling with depression is to listen, not to offer advice or try to fix their situation.

And it doesn’t hurt to ask questions, says Debra Hjortedal, the psychiatric triage supervisor at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

“Do they have a plan? How imminent is it? Because those are important things to know what kind of help you need to go get," Hjortedal said.

And finally, says Chris Moore, the coordinator of student services for the Spokane School District,   don’t think that by ignoring the problem that it will go away.

“Talking to your child about suicide is not going to plant a seed where they will go out and now have the idea of suicide as an option," Moore said. "Kids are thinking about suicide. It’s part of our culture. It’s in songs. It’s in movies. It’s in television. It’s everywhere. And it’s we as adults that really need to challenge ourselves to not be afraid of talking about it.”

You can see the forum in its entirety on the Spokane Public Schools YouTube page. Look under Events.