KAMIAH “It’s important to remember this is just a stepping stone to pull people together to address something very difficult,” Sydrin Sam, YWCA, Lewiston, told a crowd of about 35 Thursday night, June 21.
Where to go for help:
For question on how to move forward with suicide prevention within your community or for help:
• The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK
• Idaho County Sheriff’s Office, 208-983-1100
• Ni Mi Poo Health, Kamiah Clinic, 208-935-0733
• Crisis Text Line, free 24/7: text to 741-741
• Suicide Action Prevention Network: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
• YWCA: 208-743-1535 or 24-hour Crisis Line 208-746-9655
The YWCA, which has advocates locally in Orofino, Kamiah and Grangeville, sponsored a suicide prevention panel discussion at the Kamiah American Legion Hall, emceed by Kamiah YWCA advocate Ashlei Ryan.
A video featuring Kevin Hines started the meeting. Hines jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge in 2000 and survived the suicide attempt.
“A millisecond after jumping, I regretted my decision,” he said.
Hines has bipolar disorder and has suffered with mental health issues for years.
“I want people to know your thoughts do not have to become your actions,” Hines emphasized. “Do not silence your pain.”
As the meeting opened up for audience questions, starting with a question on what is being done in schools, former Kamiah and Clearwater Valley school counselor Sandra Russo said prevention education must start at home when it comes to assisting students.
“I had people tell me to mind my own business,” she said. “If the family doesn’t want help, it’s very difficult.”
Questions were brought up concerning issues with social media and bullying.
“There are so many pros and cons,” said YWCA’s Kayla Burke, Lewiston. “Although it seems suicide is oftentimes gloried through celebrity deaths – such as recently with Anthony Bourdin – that doesn’t really plant the seed for people considering suicide; that thought is already there.”
Erin Young, Suicide Prevention Action Network (SPAN), said sometimes the new technology can actually be helpful.
“Younger people want to text, and the hotlines have access to assist people through texting, so that’s a great avenue,” she said.
Vince Frazier, law enforcement officer in Orofino, stated kids have it tough nowadays because “it’s not just bullying during the school day anymore.”
“If there’s an issue, it follows them 24-7. It comes home with them after school and on weekends,” he said. “My advice to them is to ‘shut it off.’ Power down the phone or laptop. It’s hard, but that’s a good, immediate way to silence any harassment.”
“We need to teach kids coping skills and remove the stigma of dealing with mental health issues,” said Darra Snyder, RN, St. Mary’s Hospital. “You cannot help having a mental health problem any more than you can help having diabetes. We have to be able to talk about it and develop skills to cope.”
A member of the Nez Perce Tribe stated she feels getting youth involved in the meeting process would be “extremely helpful.”
“They could really tell us what they need, what the issues are right now,” she said. “Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of old people sitting around talking.”
One woman reminded the group it’s not just youth, but adults who need help.
“We have a lot of veterans in our area, and Idaho has a very high veteran suicide rate,” she stated.
Lewis County Commissioners Greg Johnson said the legislature has designated money this year to help create safe areas within local hospitals for mental health evaluations.
“It’s not the complete answer, but it’s a start,” he said.
Burke, who lost a brother to suicide when she was 12, said people need tools to deal with emotions and other issues that come their way.
“And for many there are warning signs, so on the other side, we need to be aware of those. Prevention is key,” she said.
She also acknowledged drug and alcohol use is rampant among the mentally ill and depressed.
“The mental issues are there first, almost always,” she said. “The abuse comes secondary while trying to cope.”