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Youth Suicide Prevention | Spokane, WA
Youth Suicide Prevention

   Youth Suicide…
      Our Preventable Problem

If you have a desire to end your life,
talk to someone about your feelings and your pain,
or call for HELP!  
Many people care about you.  

  • There is no typical suicide victim. Youth of all races, creeds, incomes and educational levels attempt or complete suicide. 

  • Even children ages 9 to 12 have thoughts about suicide.  "It's not just a teen problem.  They don't want to die, they just don't want to live," said Staci Cornwall.  ("Live KSPS broadcast will shine light on teen suicide," by Gary Graham, The Spokesman-Review, September 15, 2015) 
  • Teachers and All Adults.  “What every teacher (and parent) should know about preventing youth suicide.” 
“The statistics are shocking:  an average of two youths kill themselves each week in Washington making suicide the second leading cause of death for our state’s young people.  One out of every 13 high school-aged students reported having attempted suicide; one out of 4 reported having seriously considered it.  Suicide is not just a problem in adolescence—children as young as 10 years old have killed themselves.  
“It is more important than ever that teachers help prevent youth suicide.  Adolescents who die by suicide are most likely to be clinically depressed when they complete suicide.  By knowing how to spot the early warning signs and understanding what to do if you identify a student at risk, you could literally save the life of a child.”  (Read “What every teacher should know about preventing youth suicide,” Washington State Dept. of Health’s Suicide brochure, 2004)
  • “Teens are more comfortable talking about suicide than their parents are.  Suicide talk is becoming part of the culture of these kids.  As we get into social media, it is going out in ways that we have never seen before.  Social media is different and faster than previous generations.  They check their phones hundreds of times each day, and that is an influence previous generations never dealt with.  Information they receive in the media is not always accurate on a situation, and the kids have to deal with that pressure.  Adults need to overcome any discomfort and be willing to engage teens in this conversation.”  (Sabrina Votava)

    "The brains of teens are still maturing till the 20’s, as they learn coping strategies and skills.  Teens look to one another for help from friends, and are less inclined to reach out to an adult."   (Jill Royston)

    "Teen brains are not yet fully formed
    and they are not strong at problem-solving when it comes to complex issues.  Students struggle with the pressure of doing well and not disappointing their parents," said David Crump.  ("Live KSPS broadcast will shine light on teen suicide," by Gary Graham, The Spokesman-Review, September 15, 2015) 

    We find that adults are usually hesitant to use the “S” word (suicide).  They are afraid to ask it.  By asking it, in no way does it shape or form or encourage suicidal behavior - it has been proven.  We want to help them feel that they can ask, and get the staff to be aware and to be able to know how to ask and know that there are resources to do that.”   (David Crump)

    Parents should know that when professionals speak with their clients about suicidal thoughts, their clients are not upset; instead, they are pleased that their therapist or doctor cares and is concerned.  (Andrew Seely)

  • The rate of teen suicides is growing rapidly, according to the CDC.  Since the year 2000, the suicide rate for teens is up 28%, with an average of 5 deaths a day. 

    ”Teens are much more likely now than they were just five years ago, or seven years ago, to say that they are anxious and depressed and thinking about suicide," said Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University.

    Girls.  The CDC also says suicide rates for teenage girls and young women ages 15-19 has reached a 40-year high. 

    Boys.  Suicide rates for boys 15 to 19 has increased more than 30% from 2007 to 2015, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. 

    Experts cite family instability and substance use
    as some factors for suicide, but the role of cyber-bullying is becoming more prevalent.  It involves teasing, name calling, harassment, exclusion, and more. 

    There appears to be a correlation between the popularity of smartphones and an increased rates of suicide and depression among young people, according to Professor Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University.  “Teens are much more likely now than they were just 5 or 7 years ago to say that they are anxious and depressed and thinking about suicide.” Twinge makes a correlation between the popularity of smartphones and an increased rate of suicide and depression among young people. 

    "Teens who use electronic devices more hours a day are more likely to be a risk for suicide."  Twenge says the so-called smartphone generation is less likely to have face-to-face interaction with friends, which she says is crucial to mental health and building social skills.  (Source:  Smartphones, cyberbullying seen as possible causes of rising teen suicide rate, by Jericka Duncan, August 4, 2017)

  • Washington youth suicide rate is higher than the national average.  Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24 in Washington.  
Thankfully, suicide is relatively rare; but it happens enough that our lawmakers now require schools to come up with a gaining plan to recognize the signs.  The Washington State legislature is calling suicide a public health issue, and passed a bill to help vulnerable students, beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, requiring each school district to adopt a plan for recognizing, screening and responding to emotional or behavior stress in students, including indicators of possible substance abuse, violence and youth suicide. (See the State’s Youth Suicide Prevent Program, including warning signs, at http://www.yspp.org/)  (Source: KREM 2 News, May 1, 2014 and Washington State Dept. of Health)

  • Youth Mental Health First Aid is a program at North Central High School in Spokane which trained 22 volunteer students in the skills to help their peers who appear to be developing a mental health problem, or experiencing a personal crisis. This training was a one-day 8-hour class held on a Saturday, and they trained 22 teens on how to deal with a crisis situation, recognizing warning signs, and how to help a friend in a crisis.  Just as you don't need to be a doctor to perform CPR, students do not need to have a degree to feel empowered to step in.  Students Marie Chapman and John Schuster say that parents don't realize the degree of stress in high school - pressure to be a 4.0 student, valedictorian, get into a prestigious college, or get onto Varsity in sports - which contribute to depression.

  • In the State of Washington, children age 13 and up can consent to treatment without the consent of a parent.  If a teen is suicidal or homicidal, parents can use the Parent-Initiated Treatment Act to get treatment for their children.  (Andrew Seely)

  • “The brains of suicidal individuals have decreased activity in the problem-solving area.  Some of the great predictors of suicide are helplessness and hopelessness and feeling trapped.  When the problem-solving area of the brain is not functioning properly, that can really push people to those feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.  Suicidal ideation can have a healing effect on individuals.  Suicidal thinking has been shown to release endorphins (natural pain killers), so it can almost become an addictive way of thinking.  It can then be difficult to escape that toe of thinking.  Treatment can help retrain and treat these brains.  (Andrew Seely)

  • Source of information on this page:  Teen Suicide, Health Matters, KSPS TV, Spokane, WA, September 17, 2015; Hosted by Teresa Lukens, with the following guests:  

    Sabrina Votava of the (former) Youth Suicide Prevention Program and Prevent Suicide Spokane; provided training of youth, parents and staff; warning signs, how to have the conversation with someone who is struggling, community resources for help, coalition for suicide prevention.  
Sabrina is currently directing FailSafe for Life. 

    Andrew Seely LICSW, CMH of Frontier Behavioral Health; works with teens and families, medication management, suicidal ideation.

    David Crump PhD, Director of Student Services Spokane Public Schools; works with high school crisis teams and mental health program.  

    Jill Royston MA of NorthEast Washington ESD 101; school counselor dealing with alcohol, drugs, family trauma and prevention.  

    John Schuster and Marie Chapman, North Central High School students.


  • Suicide takes the lives of more than one person each week in Spokane County, according to the Spokane Regional Health District.

    Spokane Schools:
    - 3 suicides
    2015 -2016
    - 5 suicides 
    2014 -2015 - 5 suicides

    Spokane County:
    2016   91 suicides
    2015   98 suicides

    (Sources: Spokane County Medical Examiner April 2015; "Spokane schools confronting rise in teen suicides," by Caiti Currey, KXLY TV, April 29, 2015; "Recent teen deaths spark suicide prevention conversation,” by Grace Ditzier,  KXLY TV, April 20, 2017; "Forum Tackles Youth Suicide," by Eli Francovich, The Spokesman Review, June 11, 2017)

  • Among American teens age 15-19, the second leading cause of death is suicide.  ("Real Life Drama," Adults Fear Netflix Show '13 Reasons Why' Glamorizes Teen Suicide," tony Dokoupil, CBS Correspondent, CBS News, April 28, 2017)

  • “Nationwide, suicide is the third leading cause [of death] for youth ages 10 to 24; and in Washington state, it is the second leading cause of death,” said Sabrina Votava, president of Failsafe for Life, an organization with the goal of ending suicide attempts and deaths in our community.   (Source:  Recent teen deaths spark suicide prevention conversation,” by Grace Ditzier,  KXLY TV, April 20, 2017)
  • Five Spokane students ages 14 to 17, including 3 in a one-month span, took their lives in the 2014-2015 school year, the highest number in the history of the Spokane School District.  Four of the 5 communicated that they wanted to commit suicide.  Christine Moore of Spokane Public Schools emphasized parents and others should take it seriously when a student expresses thoughts of suicide.   (Health Matters, KSPS, September 2015; and "Live KSPS broadcast will shine light on teen suicide," by Gary Graham, The Spokesman-Review, September 15, 2015) 
  • One out of 5 Washington teens said that they had seriously thought about suicide.  It is not just kids on the outside, but teens who seem to ‘have it all’ are taking their own lives.  (Teen Suicide, Health Matters, KSPS TV, Spokane, September 17, 2015)
  • “Depression is the #1 risk factor for suicide.  Substance (alcohol and illicit drugs) is the 2nd most common risk factor.  Ninety percent of people who die by suicide are dealing with some sort of diagnosable mental illness at the time of their passing, and for about 60% of those folks it’s depression. Suicide training entails youth depression and how it differs from adult depression.   (Sabrina Votava and David Crump)

  • Among youth in 2014, 33% reported being depressed in the last year in Spokane County.  Depression among youth decreased as maternal education level increased, increased as age increased, and was more likely among females, Hispanics, and multi-racial youth.  (Spokane Counts 2015, Spokane Regional Health District) 
  • In 2011, the second leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24 is suicide.  ("Suicide," Health of Washington State, Washington State Dept. of Health, April 17, 2013) 

  • Twice as many Americans die at their own hands than are killed by other people.  According to National Institute of Mental Health figures, in 2004 the United States had 32,439 suicides—double the number of murder victims.  To learn more about suicide statistics and prevention, visit the National Institute of Mental Health’s website at http://nimh.nih.gov.  
What You Can Do

                        “Watch for Signs—Stop Youth Suicide.”

“If a young
person you know
seems depressed
or gloomy and has
been spending
a lot of time
why life is worth
the bother,
it’s time to pay
- Anonymous Parent (son lost to suicide)
Washington State Department of Health’s brochure

The following information was shared on "Teen Suicide," Health Matters, KSPS TV, Spokane, WA, September 17, 2015; hosted by Teresa Lukens:
  • "The vast majority of suicides are preventable.  Just talking about suicide is not going to encourage suicide.  Actually, it is an intervention."  (David Crump) 

  • If you are contemplating suicide, remember - there are many people who love and care about you.  They want to see you live, succeed, and contribute to their lives.  Let someone know you need help. 

Signs to watch for: 
  • Most suicidal young people don't really want to die—they just want their pain to end.  About 80% of the time, people who kill themselves have given definite signals or talked about suicide.  There are several signs to watch for that may indicate someone is thinking about suicide.  The more signs, the greater the risk.  The key to prevention is knowing what the warning signs are, and what to do to help. 
    • A previous suicide attempt.
    • Current talk of suicide, or making a plan.
    • Strong wish to die, preoccupation with death
    • Saying, "People are better off without me." 
    • Giving away prized posessions. 
    • Signs of serious depression, such as moodiness, hopelessness.
    • Withdrawal from friends.
    • Spend a lot of time alone.  
    • Increased alcohol and/or other drug use.
    • Decreased sleep and fatigue.
    • Recent suicide attempt by a friend/family member.
    • Stress from endless testing in school.
  • In teens, we often see irritability and anger as more common symptoms for youth than adults.  The warning signs for teens are:  FACTS


F - How are they Feeling?

    A - How are they Acting?
    C - Have they had Changes in their behavior?
    T - Have they made Threats?
    S - What is their Situation like?    (Sabrina Votava) 

  • There are other key “risk factors” to keep in mind that increase the likelihood of suicide attempts by young people.  Again, the more signs observed, the greater the risk.
    • Readily accessible firearms.
    • Impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks.
    • Lack of connection to family and friends (no one to talk to).

Prevention Steps

If you are worried about a young person
and suicide has crossed your mind as a concern, trust your judgment.  Do something now! 

Here is what you might do and say to a young person who is thinking about suicide:
  • Show You Care.  Connect with that person (and then keep checking with them thereafter).  The first steps toward instilling a sense of hope are showing your concern, raising the issue, and listening to and understanding the young person’s feelings.  Keep moving forward, together.  Here are some non-threatening things you might say to a young person considering suicide:
“Together I know we can figure something out to make you feel better.”
“I know where we can get some help.”
“I will stay with you…Let’s call the crisis line.”
“I can go with you to where we can get some help.”
“Let’s talk to someone who can help…let’s call the crisis line, now.”
“It’s difficult to know what to do, but I know where we can get some help.”
“You’re not alone.  Let me help you.”

Let the person know you really care.  Talk about your feelings and what you have noticed.  Ask about his or hers. feelings.  Listen carefully to what they have to say.

“I’m concerned about you…about how you feel.”
“Tell me about your pain.”
“You mean a lot to me and I want to help.”
“I care about you, about how you’re holding up.”
“I don’t want you to kill yourself.”
“We’ll get through this.”
  • Ask the Question
Don’t hesitate to raise the subject.  Talking with young people about suicide won’t put the idea in their heads.  Chances are, if you’ve observed any of the warning signs, they’re already thinking about it.  Be direct in a caring, non-confrontational way.  Get the conversation started.

“Are you thinking about suicide?”
“What thoughts or plans do you have?”
“Are you thinking about harming yourself, ending your life?”
“How long have you been thinking about suicide?”
“Have you thought about how you would do it?”
“Do you have _____?” (Insert the lethal means they have mentioned.)
“Do you really want to die?  Or do you want the pain to go away?”

  • Restrict any means of committing suicide at the time of a crisis, to keep them safe. 

    Males are 4 times more likely to commit and complete suicide, mostly because they choose the more fatal methods, such as firearms.  The method of completing suicide has been firearms, suffocation (including hanging) and poisoning.  That is why firearms must be locked up; and medication needs to be monitored and locked up.

    Females attempt suicide more often, but they do not use such fatal methods.  So, at that point of crisis, if it is available, that is where we need to be very careful.  (David Crump)

  • Connect them to help.  If someone says they are going to hurt themselves, call the police, friends, therapist, acquaintances, and every resource you can find.  Now is not the time to keep a confidentiality. 
  • Call for Help.  Get help immediately!  If the young person has expressed an immediate plan, or has access to a gun or other potentially deadly means, do not leave him or her alone:   
Call  911

First Call for Help - Frontier Behavioral Health in Spokane
(509) 838-4428

National HOPE Line

Spokane Regional Health District
(509) 324-1596
  • Stop School Bullying and Violence.  Encourage students to form new friendships and help stop bullying, violence, and social isolation in their schools.  Many students feel bullied, left out, alone, misunderstood, without friends, or invisible.  These painful feelings lead to social isolation, which is often a precursor to bullying.  These feelings are often highlighted at lunchtime, when kids are left to fend for themselves socially.  Unfortunately, for some students, lunchtime is the hardest part of their day. Everyone needs to know that others genuinely care about them, and some schools are doing something about that.

    We Dine Together is a club at Boca Raton Community High School in Florida, where students make sure that no one in school sits alone at lunch.  The message is to make outsiders always feel included, valued and accepted by their peers.  It consists of students (including the coolest kids in school) who roam their school’s courtyard during lunch looking for students who are eating alone.  They introduce themselves, and talk with them to get to know the students and help them feel accepted.  Open a We Dine Together Chapter at your school! 

    No One Eats Alone is another program designed to help students make an effort to eat a meal with their new classmates and peers.  This lunchtime event seeks to reverse the trends of social isolation by asking students to engage in a simple act of kindness at lunch - making sure that no one is eating alone.  Learn more at https://www.nooneeatsalone.org/questions/

Local Organizations
Additional Resources

Call First Call for Help
(24 hour crisis line)
(509) 838-4428
(877) 678-4428
TDD 624-0004
(Speak with a good listener who is empathetic and non-judgmental)

or... walk into any hospital emergency room
or... call 911
or... Crisis Text Line:  741-741

Crisis Response Services
Frontier Behavioral Health
South 107 Division
Spokane, WA 99202
(509) 838-4651
Emergency services are available and accessible to all Spokane County residents, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, 365 days a year regardless of age, culture, mental health coverage and without need for pre-authorization based on medical necessity criteria.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
(800) 273-TALK (8255)
(Includes services for veterans/military)

Hospital Emergency Rooms - Walk-In

Emergency medical care for anyone in a crisis is available by walking into any emergency room. Sacred Heart provides acute mental health inpatient stabilization and supervision in a modified environment, risk evaluation and treatment recommendations.

Deaconess Medical Center
800 West Fifth Avenue
Spokane, WA
(509) 458-7100

Providence Holy Family

5633 N. Lidgerwood
Spokane, WA
(509) 482-2460

Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital

101 West Eighth Ave.
Spokane, WA
(509) 474-3344

Valley Hospital and Medical Center
12606 E. Mission
Spokane Valley, WA
(509) 473-5466

VA Medical Center
4815 N. Assembly
Spokane, WA
(509) 434-7000


Elder Services
Crisis Intervention services: 
5125 N. Market
Spokane, WA  99217
(509) 838-4428
Elder Services provides information and assistance to older people and case management for frail, isolated, at-risk elders living in the community.  The gatekeeper model is used to locate at-risk elders.  Respite services for caregivers, and volunteer transportation to medical services for the elderly are also provided.  The program focuses on maintaining clients in their own homes, and is a unique blend of mental health and aging services.

Frontier Behavioral Health - Family Service Spokane
(509) 838-4128
7 South Howard - Suite 321, Spokane, WA 99201
151 South Washington, Spokane, WA 99201
112 North University - Suite 100, Spokane Valley, WA 99206
Counselors are trained in suicide prevention. Ongoing mental health counseling for families, groups, individuals, and marriages is offered. Open to all ages. All insurances and some medical coupons accepted. Clients need to have insurance and medical coupons available when scheduling appointment. Call to make an appointment, no walk-ins.

Frontier Behavioral Health - Spokane Mental Health

(509) 838-4651
107 South Division
Spokane, WA 99202
Outpatient mental health and psychiatric services are available to all ages. A comprehensive intake assessment for new clients is provided, which includes a suicide risk assessment. Suicide risk is assessed on an ongoing basis and services are provided as appropriate. Follow-up services are provided. Walk in or call to schedule an appointment.

Inland Psychiatry & Psychology
906 West Second Ave., Suite 600
Spokane, WA 99201
(509) 458-5889
Email:  inlandpshychiatry@gmail.com
A collaborative practice of psychiatrists and therapists who are highly trained to help with life's challenges. We work with children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families. Staff is highly skilled and trained in the latest treatment methods.

Lutheran Community Service
Sexual assault, domestic violence and trauma counseling:
(509) 747-8224
Sexual assault/crime victim advocacy 24 hour crisis line: 624-7273
210 West Sprague Ave.
Spokane, WA 99201
Certified sexual assault center. Support groups, therapy groups, and individual counseling. Accepts many private insurances, medicaid funded (title 19), grants for survivors or sexual assault with no ability to pay, and crime victims’ compensation program (WA State). Call for more information. Frontier Behavioral Health - Spokane Mental Health (509) 838-4651 107 South Division, Spokane, WA 99202 Outpatient mental health and psychiatric services are available to all ages. A comprehensive intake assessment for new clients is provided, which includes a suicide risk assessment. Suicide risk is assessed on an ongoing basis and services are provided as appropriate. Follow-up services are provided. Walk in or call to schedule an appointment.

Debi Price M.S., LMHC

(509) 744-0778, Ext. #5
905 West Riverside Ave. - Suite 501
Spokane, WA 99201
Crisis care and grief/bereavement in a compassionate environment and EMDR therapy are offered. Appointments are available within 48 hours if needed. Sliding scale if need is determined; preferred provider for major insurances.

Survivor Support Services
Rich Paulsen, B.S., M.B.A, M.Ed.
509) 484-4021
9507 North Division St.- Suite G
Holland Building
Spokane, WA 99218
Affordable mental health and crisis counseling is available for co-dependency, depression, co-addiction, trauma, pornography, communication, emotional abuse, adults with childhood abuse, relationships, marriage, premarital, and Christian guidance for individuals, couples, and families. Open to all ages. Appointments are available within 72 hours. Follow-up services are provided for crisis services as required. Hourly fee–$65.

Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center
Contact:  Kevin Bratcher or John David 
(509) 434-7288
4815 N. Asembly
Spokane, WA  99205
Crisis Intervention services.  
Services include: 

Walk-in services, voluntary in-patient program, emergency room, risk management/CQI team and CDM HP’s.  Providers are trained in Question, Persuade, Refer & Train—for suicide prevention.  Walk-ins are welcome. 

Age of consent for mental health treatment in Washington State is age 13. This means that youth 13 and older have the right to make their own medical decisions and can request or refuse treatment.


Aging and Long Term Care

1222 N. Post
Spokane, WA  99201
Contact:  Nick Beamer (509) 458-2509
The mission of Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington is to promote well-being, independence, dignity, and choice for all SENIORS and for individuals needing long term care in Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Spokane and Whitman Counties.  Case management includes home visits and the care givers report to the agency.

Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council (GSSAC)
Prevention Center
1804 E. Sprague
Spokane, WA  99212-2900
Contact:  Dean Wells (509) 922-8383
Resources and training are available on drug and alcohol-related issues. 

Hospice of Spokane
509) 456-0438
121 South Arthur St.
Spokane, WA 99201
Grief counseling and support services available to any Spokane County resident who has lost a loved one, whether or not the loved one was a client of hospice. Counseling services available Monday–Friday, 8am–5pm. Call to schedule an appointment; group walk-ins welcome.

(Hospice of Spokane)
Survivors of a Loved One’s Suicide

Sheryl Shepard
121 South Arthur St.
Spokane, WA 99201
(509) 456-0438
A support group for anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide. We meet on Tuesdays from 5:30–6:30 p.m.; call ahead for info.

Odyssey Youth Center (509) 325-3637
1121 South Perry St.
Spokane, WA 99202
We work with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth to provide a safe place, education, and advocacy – promoting positive growth and self-empowerment.


Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST)

AJ Sanders – (509) 324-1596
A two-day, skills-based training program that teaches suicide assessment and intervention skills. ASIST is appropriate for everyone, from concerned citizen to mental health practitioners. Skills and principles are illustrated in case studies presented in DVD and live drama. Participants have multiple opportunities to practice skills in role-play simulations and to engage in discussions with other participants and workshop trainers

QPR Institute Training Program
PO Box 2867
Spokane, WA   99220
Contact:  Kathy White/Paul Quinnett, (509) 536-5100 or 1-800-726-7926, or fax (509) 536-5400
The QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) Institute offers education in suicide prevention, gatekeeper training, and suicide risk assessment and management. Programs are offered in both traditional classroom settings and are now ALL available online. Courses are approved for continuing education and some courses are approved for college credits. 
Limited time partnership with SRHD to provide discounted training; for information: AJ Sanders (509) 324-1596 | asanders@spokanecounty.org

safeTALK Sabrina Votara
(509) 475-7334
safeTALK is a 3-hour training that prepares anyone over the age of 15 to identify persons with thoughts of suicide and connect them to suicide first aid resources.

SMILE (Students Mastering Important Life skills Education)
PO Box 30357
Spokane, WA   99223
Contact:  Christy Toribara, (509) 448-8886
We help at-risk youth (ages 0-25) develop positive life skills and the ability to deal with emotional pain and life challenges. We focus on teaching coping skills to youth before they become at-risk.

...this is the end of the Spokane Reg. Health District’s
list of Suicide Prevention Programs

(printed October 2012)

                          ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

741-741                Crisis Text Line

800-273-8255       National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

                              Now Matters Now
  2009 Plan for Youth Suicide Prevention 
  Washington State Dept. of Health’s