Experts to parents: Use Richland tragedy to talk with teens about suicide

    Experts to parents: Use Richland tragedy to talk with teens about suicide

    Family, friends and classmates are remembering a 16-year-old boy who tragically died by suicide this week.

    Jack Briggs was a junior at Richland high school.

    His father tells Action News he loved sports, especially football.

    He said Jack was a jokester and the baby boy of the family with three sisters, and two beloved dogs.

    The district released a letter to parents of children at Richland High about his death.

    Counselors were on site to talk with any classmates needing to be comforted about the sudden news.

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    Survivors of suicide know all-too-well the taboo surrounding death-by-suicide.

    Mental Health experts say ignoring it is the wrong approach because talking about it saves lives.

    They say it's a tough subject for many of us, but not talking about suicide won't keep it from happening.

    Experts say it's a complex topic but mental-illness seems to be a large component.

    Luckily they also say there are things parents can do to help.

    Registered Nurse Janet Moore from Walla Walla compares death-by-suicide with death-by-cancer:

    "Everyone brings casseroles and are happy to help, but when it's suicide people just don't know what to do or say," Moore said, "Kids don't have the resources to deal with some of the things they feel overwhelmed by yet."

    Moore says young people need to be able to talk about hard things; especially if someone they know dies by suicide.

    "We have a lot of losses in life, but when it's a loss by suicide it's such a sudden thing that you're not prepared for it," she said. "There's no chance to say goodbye."

    A tragic truth she knows from personal experience after losing her own daughter, Lori, to suicide.

    "She was beautiful, she was funny, smart," she said smiling. "And she had bipolar- and borderline-personality disorders."

    Now Moore co-hosts a support group called Surviving Suicide Loss in College Place; she says it's helpful for survivors to be around people who understand.

    "You gain courage after seeing they've survived, and you can too," she said.

    Author Kimberly A. Starr from Prosser remembers trying to discuss suicide with her son, Tom, after one of her co-workers died-by-suicide.

    "I asked my son, 'You would never do anything stupid like that, right'?"

    Tom ended his own life in 2015,

    "When I asked him that question he was already thinking about it, but I didn't ask him in a way that allowed him to say, 'You know what mom, I'm not okay. I'm having these feelings and I need help'," she said.

    Now Starr works to help other families recognize warning-signs before it happens to them.

    "My biggest takeaway with the prevention-work I do is being able to talk to your children in a way that doesn't have judgement or tell them the answer you want to hear," she said.

    RELATED STORY: Picking up the pieces: 'Survivors' of suicide find hope in helping

    Starr says this week's tragedy in Richland is an unfortunate but important way for parents to broach the topic of suicide with young adults.

    "If we don't talk about suicide, we're never going to talk about it," she said. "Talking about it helps remove the stigma; we chip away at stigma and it gives us the opportunity to help people who need help."

    Moore says parents should check-in with their kid about how they're coping; she says it's important survivors are allowed time to grieve.

    "Because it's not something you get over, it's something you get through," she said. "Just be there, be a friend and listen if they want to talk. It helps to have someone they can trust; it's helps to keep saying their name."

    Red flags of suicidal thoughts/intentions:

    • Sleeping too little or too much
    • Giving away personal items
    • Talking about suicide
    • Making statements about feeling hopeless, helpless, or worthless
    • A deepening depression
    • Preoccupation with death
    • Taking unnecessary risks
    • Exhibiting self-destructive behavior
    • Out of character behavior
    • A loss in interest in things one cares about
    • Visiting or calling people one cares about
    • Arranging or setting one’s affairs in order
    • Increasing use of drugs or alcohol
    • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
    • Talking about being a burden to others

    If you recognize these signs:

    • Tell the person you are concerned about them.
    • Ask: Are you feeling so bad you are thinking about suicide?
      - If they say yes, ask: Have you thought about how you would do it?
      - If they say yes, ask: Do you have what you need to do it?
      - If they say yes, ask: Have you thought about when you would do it?
    • These questions will not push the person toward suicide if they were not considering it.
    • If the person indicates they have an imminent completion plan, do not leave them alone. Contact a local or national hotline and follow the instructions.
    • If the person does not have a completion plan, ask if they are seeing a doctor or taking medication.
      - If so, encourage them to make an appointment with a doctor as soon as they can. Offer to go with them to the appointment.
      - If not, help them find a mental health professional and make an appointment or take them to a walk-in clinic at a psychiatric hospital or hospital emergency room.

    Resources for those considering suicide:

    • National Crisis Text line: Text "HEAL" to 741-741
    • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
    • Benton-Franklin Crisis Response Unit: 509-783-0500
    • Yakima Comprehensive Healthcare: 509-575-4200
    • Walla Walla Comprehensive Healthcare: 509-524-2999

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