Suicide prevention discussed at school district board meeting

Suicide prevention was the focus of a work session of the Salem-Keizer School Board on Tuesday, Sept. 24.

A nationwide problem, student suicide has a higher rate in Oregon than the country as a whole.

A team of counselors made a presentation on local efforts to prevent suicide.

Ishawn Early, suicide prevention coordinator for the district; Courtenay McCarthy, lead school psychologist for the Salem-Keizer Student Threat Assessment Program; David Fender, coordinator of the district’s Office of Behavioral Learning; and Leilani Slama, vice president for community engagement for Salem Health, were the presenters.

The presentation noted that the district now has 112 counselors, 11 school psychologists and licensed therapists at 27 schools, as well as seven additional therapists who are involved in the issue. Six counselors were added to the traditional high schools in 2018, and the district would like to have more therapists, but finds no more available at this time.

The following statistics were shown:

• Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-24.

• One in six students nationwide in grades 9 through 12 seriously considered suicide in the past year.

• Oregon’s age-adjusted suicide rate of 17.7 per 100,000 residents in 2015 was 33 percent higher than the national average, and Oregon ranked 13th among the states in suicide incidence.

• Suicide rates for Oregon and the other states have increased since 2000.

Because of a state law that took effect before the current school year, students are allowed to have excused absences for mental health days.

Mental health issues have also been incorporated into the Salem-Keizer curriculum.

After the presentation, the board proclaimed September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.