Paragraph 15 reads:  "Worthen’s family disclosed to the Daily Times-Call this week that the 15-year-old suffered from clinical depression, which she had recently begun treating with medication."

Publish Date: 5/5/2007

SVVSD taking suicide seriously

By Douglas Crowl
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT ­ School officials are talking to students at Longmont High School about suicide risks in the wake of 15-year-old Kristen Worthen’s taking her own life Tuesday.

One message ringing clear is that students should always tell an adult about depression or suicidal thoughts, whether it’s their own feelings or concerns about their peers.

“We are meeting with student groups and giving out that message really clearly,” said KG Campanella-Green, school counselor and coordinator for student assistant service for the St. Vrain Valley School District.

Sometimes society makes it difficult to discuss mental health issues, said Paula Nelson, a member of the Suicide Prevention Center of Boulder County.

“There’s such a stigma around any kind of mental-health disorder, even just calling it a mental-health disorder, people are afraid of talking because of what others might say,” Nelson said.

It’s particularly difficult for adolescents to seriously address concerns about a friend, she said.

“But don’t ever hesitate to tell an adult if you are worried about one of your friends,” she said.

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only accidents and homicides take more lives in that age range.

When suicide does happen, Campanella-Green said, no one should be blamed.

But it’s common for those close to the event to accept responsibility, she said, and that’s one way in which suicide has a complex effect on society.

More so than with other fatal tragedies, those dealing with a suicide of a friend or family member tend to pinpoint times they could have prevented the death, Campanella-Green said. But the cause of suicide is largely connected to clinical depression, not one person’s actions.

In fact, many people dwell on one event as a sole trigger to suicide, which typically isn’t the case.

“That final decision is what everyone relates to,” Campanella-Green said. “But it’s an accumulation, and sometimes it’s years of accumulation.”

Worthen’s family disclosed to the Daily Times-Call this week that the 15-year-old suffered from clinical depression, which she had recently begun treating with medication.

Still, those personally affected by suicide are also more at risk of committing suicide themselves, Campanella-Green said.

At Longmont High School, counselors initially identified the kids closest to Worthen this week and did a complete assessment, including whether they are now having thoughts of suicide.

Suicide prevention resource

• Suicide hotline: 800-SUICIDE

• Mental Health Center of Boulder County: 303-447-1665

• Colorado office of Suicide Prevention: 303-692-2609

• Heartbeat support group: 303-444-3416

• Longmont Suicide Survivor Group: 720-494-7661

Warning signs of depression

• Sad or irritable mood

• Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed

• Major changes in appetite or weight

• Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping

• Slow or agitated movement

• Loss of energy

• Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

• Difficulty concentrating

• Frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Additional warning signs specific to adolescents

• Increased irritability, anger, hostility

• Frequent absences from school or poor school performance

• Lack of interest in spending time with friends or family

• Talk of or efforts to run away from home

• Social isolation, poor communication

• Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure

• Reckless behavior

• Neglect of clothes and appearance

Adolescent risk factors

• Alcohol and drug abuse

• Previous suicide attempts

• Suicide completion by friends

• Availability of a gun

• Recent traumatic event

• Unplanned pregnancy

• Family history of depression and/or substance abuse

• Difficulties in dealing with sexual orientation

• Minority status

• Stress

Source: Suicide Prevention Coalition of Boulder County and Dr. Jan Hittelman, licensed psychologist