Jackson County sees record number of suicides in 2018

NewsWatch12 spoke with officials across the county to find out what resources are available to those in crisis.

Posted: May 21, 2019 7:18 PM
Updated: May 21, 2019 7:35 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- Recently, a middle school student in the Medford School District committed suicide. Monday on NewsWatch12 at 5, we broke down a new study that shows a spike in suicide rates among young girls over the last decade.

Last year, Jackson County had the highest number of suicides in history, according to officials with the Jackson County Suicide Prevention Center. Since then, teams began working throughout the community to change that by educating people about suicide prevention.

So far this year, officials said suicide rates seem to be decreasing throughout the county.

On Tuesday, NewsWatch12 spent the day researching what local resources are available to those in crisis. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a great place to start when looking for help, it is accessible online or by phone via text messaging. On the website, there's a list of resources available throughout the Jackson County, including support groups and other informative sessions to educate the community on suicide prevention. There is also a 24 hour hotline that people in crisis can call: 1-800-273-8255.

NewsWatch12 also spoke with Medford School District to find out what exactly is available to students that need help. Officials said two years ago they actually launched a team of licensed counselors to support students.

"We do have schools that have experienced suicides and it’s something that is really difficult for students and young adults and even adults to process," Natalie Hurd, the Medford School District Communications Specialist, said. "We know that it's important to have people that are trained in this area to talk to kids and say if you're having these feelings it's normal you're not alone we're here for you and let's work through this together."

Schools also have a new step-by-step guide for staff to use when a crisis does happen.

Susan Holt's 15-year-old daughter, Grace, took her own life in 2016.

"I just couldn't wrap my head around the fact that it was actually suicide, and I thought of it as an accident, part of me still believes that," Holt told NewsWatch12. 

Jackson County Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Kristin Fettig, said there's a list of warning signs parents can look for.

"So the signs that we see are all different, but if you look at signs of depression or symptoms of depression and a lot of them go along with thoughts of suicide," Fettig said. 

But Holt said her daughter didn't show any of these warning signs. Now she's warning parents that the signs might not always be clear. 

"When she passed, every teacher, every friend, everyone said all they did was see her smile all the time, they never saw her look sad and nobody believed it everyone was in shock," Holt said. 

In the months leading up to Graces' death, Holt said her daughter did admit to feeling depressed sometimes.

"She wrote a note that said my life is wonderful, I don't understand why I feel so sad."

Although Grace did start counseling to help with her depression, Holt said there are things she wishes she would have done differently.

"I would say listen instead of talk so much. Like when I look back I think 'gosh I did a lot of talking,'" Holt said. "And never ever take depression lightly."

Now more than ever, she says educating people on suicide prevention is important. Losing someone you love to suicide is a pain she said she can't put into words.

"I'm not sure that there's a harder thing to survive and to be really honest, I didn't think that I would the first year."

Fettig wants people to know that seeking help isn't as scary as it seems.

"It's not how people portray it, like a padded room," Fettig said. "It's just caring people like me and you here in the room saying we care about you were trying to work through this crisis with you."

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