Teen's suicide prompts school district to screen for depression

LEBANON, Ore. - A mother said she tried to get her daughter help for depression but in the end her 13-year-old took her own life.

Now she's hoping a new program can help other kids who are suffering, before it's too late.

Jody Bledsoe's daughter, Jordyn Beckner wasn't afraid to be different.

"She reflected that in her music, the way she dressed, haircuts - pink, blue, black," Bledsoe said.

But underneath it all, the teenage girl was hurting. She expressed that through writing and art that her mother only found later.

Bledsoe tried to get help for her daughter, but this past November, the girl took her own life.

"As hard as it is to say, I think Jordyn made up her mind to do this a long time ago and I think the opportunity presented itself that night," Bledsoe said.

After her daughter's death, and a mental health conference that school district leaders attended, the Lebanon School District decided to start something new to help other teens who are struggling.

Starting in April, all seventh grade students will be screened for depression. With parental consent, they will answer nine questions. Based on that questionnaire, if they show a risk of harming themselves the student's family will be notified and they will be referred to a family physician.

"For kids who are first starting to think about it and willing to talk about it - absolutely. I think a screener is a great idea," Bledsoe said.

She doesn't know if it would have helped her daughter, but said it could help others.

"Even if it only helps one kid, it was worth it," she said.

Details about the program from the Lebanon School District:

  • We plan to screen 7th grade students throughout the district in April. To complete the screening we will receive parental consent.
  • The screening will be in the form of a questionnaire and scored by district staff.
  • The screening tool was chosen by district staff, Linn County Mental health and a child psychiatrist from Samaritan Health.
  • Questionnaires will be scored to determine which students would benefit from immediate support through Linn County Mental Health. Other students will be supported as part of a group focusing on the development of skills needed to address depression. Other students may need to make contact with their physicians. We want to provide differentiated support based on student need.
  • We are screening students for a number of reasons. Most importantly, we want students to be at school and ready to learn. We believe that addressing students overall health, including mental health, is an important component in meeting this goal. This is a pilot program this school year. We started discussing this pilot after attending a mental health conference as part of a regional Safe Schools Grant.
  • The funding has come through our partnerships. Staff from Samaritan, Linn Benton Lincoln ESD, Linn County Mental Health and the Lebanon Community School District will be giving time to support the screening process and leading groups for students.