'While it takes an entire village to raise a child, it takes an entire community to save one': Webinar raises awareness about teen suicide prevention

BOISE, Idaho — A Treasure Valley school district and mental health advocates are raising concerns about the number of children and teenagers dying by suicide recently

On Tuesday, Nov. 14, the Speedy Foundation, alongside the Children's Home Society of Idaho, hosted a webinar in response to the growing problem.

The nearly 250 attendees watched 'Hope Lives: Preventing Teen Suicide' before listening to a discussion about prevention, intervention and postvention — what happens after someone dies by suicide. 

"The tragedies are not a Boise school district problem," said Shannon Decker, Speedy Foundation executive director, "and they're not a West Ada School District problem. They're a community problem; they're a Treasure Valley problem." 

Some contributing risk factors youth may struggle with include anxiety, bullying, questions about their gender identity or sexuality, social media, and access to virtual communication 24/7, Decker said. 

Dr. Greg Hudnall, Hope Squad founder and event panelist, said the first step to prevention centers around education. Open communication between parents and children is also key. 

Hudnall also encouraged parents not to shame their children and teenagers for whatever they are going through. 

"[It's important to] know how to talk to someone that is struggling," he said. "Because we're afraid to talk to them. We think when we ask them, it's going to give them the idea when in reality, the research shows talking about it can be one of the best things that we can do."

In the 2022-23 school year alone, Boise School District (BSD) has seen an alarming number of teens die by suicide. BSD Superintendent Coby Dennis and Boise School Board President Dave Wagers sent a letter Tuesday to district families explaining the gravity of this public health issue.

"The reality of our community's ongoing struggle with mental health has hit our school families hard this year. In only a few short weeks, our crisis response team has been called into action for multiple student deaths and one teacher death," The letter stated. "For far too long, Idaho has struggled with mental health challenges. Perhaps most evident is our state's history as having one of the highest suicide rates in the country. Closer to home, however, recent studies have shown growing trends in stress, social isolation and depression among our youth."

Hudnall said it is one everyone — parents, schools and lawmakers — to help children and teenagers find the necessary help. 

"While it takes an entire village to raise a child," he said, "it takes an entire community to save one."

People should call 9-8-8, the National Suicide and Crisis Hotline if they need help or know of someone needing help. 

There are several upcoming events in the Treasure Valley centered around suicide prevention and mental health awareness:

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