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Paynesville Press - Dec. 18, 2002

PAHS to start suicide prevention program

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Because suicide is the second leading cause of death among young Minnesotans between the ages of 14 and 34, according the the Minnesota Department of Health, Paynesville Area High School (PAHS) will soon offer a new a new suicide prevention program.

Suicide thoughts The Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program lets young people know that somebody cares and gives them a voice when it may be hard to find their own, said counselor Jackie Campbell. Program implementation in Paynesville will be possible because of a $1,500 grant from the Centra Care Health Foundation for suicide prevention.

Yellow Ribbon's focus is on educating young people and everyone who cares for them. The program lets kids know that people care about them and helps dispel some myths such as the idea that talking about suicide makes young people more likely to try it, said Campbell. The first phase of the program, which Campbell hopes can be held in February or March, will be an educational session for students. "Ask4help" cards will be distributed, and the students will be introduced to community support people such as police officers and counselors.

The "ask4help" cards carry the message that it is all right to ask for help and gives the carrier a way to do so, said Campbell. "This ribbon is a lifeline," the front of the card reads. "It carries the message that there are those who care and will help. If you are in need and don't know how to ask for help, take this card to a counselor, teacher, clergy, doctor, parent or friend and say I need to use my yellow ribbon."

The back of the card gives the recipient instructions on what to do and has a toll-free crisis line number.

The next part of the program will be a question, persuade, and refer session for school staff, including administration, teachers and support staff. The training will include signs and symptoms of depression and what staff members should do if someone approaches them for help.

The third phase of the program is a training session held for parents and the community at large on the Yellow Ribbon Program and how they can save a life by knowing what to do if someone they care about is suicidal.

The program is ongoing and depends on the whole community for its success, said Campbell.

Since 1990, three Paynesville students and four former students have committed suicide, said PAHS principal John Janotta.

For every student that commits suicide, more have tried, and still more have thought about taking their own lives but never acted on their thoughts.

According to the 2001 Minnesota Student Survey, a survey given to sixth, ninth, and 12th graders, almost a quarter of Paynesville's sixth, ninth and 12th grade boys have had thoughts of suicide, while at least 40 percent of ninth and 12th grade girls have considered it. Of those girls, over 20 percent of them said they had actually attempted suicide.

Campbell added that chemical use (drugs and alcohol) makes young people more likely to attempt suicide and stressed that all of the dangers signs of suicide need to be taken seriously.

According to the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (S.A.V.E.), an organization that educates about suicide prevention, the danger signs for suicide are: talking about suicide, statements about hopelessness or worthlessness, preoccupation with death, suddenly happier or calmer, a loss of interest in things one cares about, visiting or calling people one cares about, setting one's affairs in order, and giving things away.

Campbell warned that the biggest signs of depression in young people include a drop in grades, changes in relationships and peers, and not caring about their appearance.

The toll-free crisis number for the Yellow Ribbon Project is 1-800-865-0606.

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