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Suicide Prevention Workshop held for Humboldt County school health officials

Experts confirm that after a two decade decline in youth suicides throughout the country, rates have gone up in recent years.  On Friday, there was a Suicide Prevention Workshop at Eureka High School where school health officials from around Humboldt County learned how to better identify students at risk of committing suicide.

Richard Lieberman is a school psychologist and the Lead Consultant for the Student Mental Health Initiative in Los Angeles.  He says while California has one of the lowest suicide rates in the country, Humboldt County is consistently within the top ten counties for highest suicide rates in California, due to the presence of rural areas.

"At times, people in rural areas are isolated.  They lack access to mental health services within their community and at times in rural communities, we can see higher rates of depression and higher rates of substance abuse, particularly meth," said Lieberman.

On Friday, he presented a Suicide Prevention Workshop for the second time with Eureka City Schools, where risk factors for suicide were discussed. 

"Suicidal students don't self refer.  They don't go into their counselor's office and say, 'I'm thinking of killing myself, please stop me.'  But they do say something, do something, write something or draw something," Lieberman said.

He also says some risk factors for suicide are substance abuse, mental illness, non-suicidal self injury (cutting or burning) and the presence of a firearm.

"Depression in adolescents has two faces.  One looks very much like depression in adults where they're withdrawn, having moods or not eating or sleeping.  Then there are some students that react by risky kinds of behaviors, drinking and driving, playing with firearms," said Lieberman

School psychologists from around Humboldt County attended the workshops, which were held at Eureka High School and HSU.

"I've had to deal with student taking their own life and it's tragic.  It's not only tragic to the students' family, it's tragic to the students around them and it's also a tragedy for someone that is so young to take their life so early so it's important that we have a good system in place to intervene and do everything we can," said Fred Van Vleck, the Superintendent of Eureka City Schools.

The ways peers, teachers and parents should respond if they see someone displaying suicidal risk factors were also discussed at the workshops.