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Parents urged to participate in suicide prevention program

Suicide is a topic many may not think about until it is perhaps too late.

But the Youth Suicide Prevention Program makes it a mission to reduce youth suicide attempts and deaths in Washington state.

The group has recently started programs to help Lower Valley youths in Sunnyside and Mabton. Last year the organization was given a three-year grant to pilot a new program titled, "From the Classroom to the Community: A Team Approach to Youth Suicide Prevention."

The program focuses on prevention and early intervention strategies in three areas of the state where local suicide and suicide attempt rates for youth and young adults are higher than the federal average.

The three areas where suicide-related instances in the state occur the most is in Cowlitz County, Lower Yakima Valley and South Pierce County.

The Youth Suicide Prevention Program has taken its pilot program to the Sunnyside and Mabton school districts and has been working with area teachers on prevention of suicides in their schools since the start of the 2012-13 school year.

One of the ways teachers are involved is by educating students on how to recognize signs of depression and how to help if a friend may be in serious trouble.

As the next step in the program, the group is now seeking parent volunteers to get involved with the prevention strategy. Parents of middle or high school students in Sunnyside or Mabton schools are encouraged to get involved.

Field coordinator Celisa Hopkins says parent volunteers may be utilized up to 10 hours each month, and if travel or childcare is an issue, she says there is a small stipend available to help parents offset the costs.

As volunteers, parents will assist with promoting the program and advocate suicide prevention.

"A very (important) factor (in suicide prevention) is a strong link to students, community and parents," Hopkins said. "Weaving those things together makes a stronger safety net for the students."

Hopkins says it's obvious parents care for their children and want them to be safe, and kids learn a lot from them, too. So if parents are learning coping skills and stress management, it's likely intervention specialists, friends, teachers and parents are able to catch something before it's too late, says Hopkins.

"We really take the stance that there is a role everyone can play in suicide prevention," she added.

For more information or to volunteer, email Hopkins at celisa@yspp.org or call (509) 833-9631.

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