Hart District group looks to reduce suicide

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September is Suicide Prevention Month, and mental health officials are hosting multiple events in the coming weeks to educate about the signs and symptoms of suicide, as well as encourage people to reach out to those who might be in need.

The feelings of shame and stigma often prevent people from talking openly about suicide, according to the website of the National Alliance of Mental Illness, or NAMI. “Each year, more than 41,000 individuals die by suicide, leaving behind their friends and family members to navigate the tragedy of loss.”

While the teen suicide rate has declined by over 25 percent since the early 1990s, suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 24, according to data from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Suicide is a growing concern for parents across the nation, which is why schools in the Santa Clarita Valley are offering services and assisting the community’s youth.

The William S. Hart Union High School District’s Parent and Student Empowerment, or PASE, intends to tackle the stigmas that surround suicide and depression during its community discussion, “Every Life Matters: Preventing Suicide in Teens and Children,” which will take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, at Rio Norte Junior High School.

“The objective is to have four different events that are topical, every year,” Hart District spokesman Dave Caldwell said. In the past, experts have discussed subjects such as suicide, understanding social media, drugs and other topics of interest that are pertinent to what is happening in the community today.

Pediatrician Susan Igdaloff will join Dawnel DeRubeis, coordinator for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the More than Sad Program, at next Thursday’s discussion.

Anybody with an interest in the topic is invited to attend because, “suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background,” according to NAMI’s website.

“Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues,” NAMI’s website states. It can be frightening and intimidating when a loved one reveals or shows signs of suicidal thoughts. However, not taking thoughts of suicide seriously can have a devastating outcome.”

For more information on PASE’s upcoming discussion, visit its website at hartdistrict.org/apps/pages/pase.d

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