Posted: May 10, 2017

Dear Camas Families,

There is increasing concern from health professionals and counselors about a popular Netflix series called 13 Reasons Why. While it’s possible you’ve never heard of the drama, it’s highly likely that your student has heard about it or may have read the book. The series is centered on a 17-year-old girl who dies by suicide. While many students may be capable of differentiating between a TV drama and real life, it’s important to engage in thoughtful conversations with your child about the show. A number of organizations focused on counseling youths have provided some really helpful guidance and resources including this page from the JED Foundation.

Here in Camas, we strive to make student wellness an everyday practice; however, this work isn’t done in isolation. Together, we can work to prevent suicide. Experts tell us that students who contemplate suicide give warning signs of their distress. Our community of parents, schools, and public agencies must come together to identify students who are at risk and get them the help they need. If you have concerns about your child’s mental health, or the mental health of their friends, or a child in the neighborhood, please reach out to either community agencies or your school.

The National Association of School Psychologists reminds us that these are some of the warning signs of suicide:

·       Suicidal threats in the forms of direct and indirect statements

·       Suicide notes and plans

·       Prior suicidal behavior

·       Making final arrangements (e.g., making funeral arrangements, writing a will, giving away prized possessions)

·       Preoccupation with death

·       Changes in behavior, appearance, thoughts and/or feelings

We’re often asked what students learn about depression and suicide in schools. Beginning in grade six and into high school, students are taught about the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety; situations that call for professional emotional and mental and behavioral health services; how self-harm or suicide impacts other people; how to help someone who is thinking about attempting suicide; and about school and community resources that can help a person with emotional and mental and behavioral health concerns.

As a district, we’ve heard from parents about their concerns of the social-emotional well-being of students. These concerns have sparked work related to best practices for homework and conversations about school start times for teens, as well as a look at the educational programming we provide. At the heart of this work is a focus on equity, ensuring we truly see and serve all. The goal is to engage each student in a way that builds on their passion for life and gets them excited for learning. Coming up in June, we’ll host learning opportunities for students and families related to coping with adolescent stress and depression as well as building resiliency.

Please join us in the fight against suicide by working with our schools and local agencies. Together, we can ensure that all of our children will grow and thrive in a safe community that is forged by our partnership and our concern. This is an issue we cannot ignore. Our promise to you is that we will continue to rethink, reassess, and reevaluate all we do in the district for the safety of our students. Together, as a community, we can support our children and work to prevent additional tragedies.

As a district, as a community, we must maintain our steadfast commitment to the well-being of our children. If you have concerns involving your student, please contact a school principal or counselor.

 

Sincerely,
Jeff Snell
Superintendent