After two middle school students attempt suicide, prevention group talks warning signs

The principal of Rowe Middle School in Milwaukie told parents an ambulance took two students to the hospital on Jan. 25 after an apparent suicide attempt.

A local suicide prevention group talked with KATU about warning signs after two children tried to kill themselves at a middle school in Milwaukie.

The incident at Rowe Middle School happened last week.

Melissa Trombetta, outreach coordinator for the Portland-based non-profit group Lines for Life said generally increased isolation continues to put young people at risk.

"Suicide has been such a taboo word. We sometimes call it the 'S' word," she explained.

The latest statistics from Oregon Health Authority say suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people 5 to 34 years old in the state.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Oregon continues to be above the national average on suicide for all age groups.

Still, Trombetta believes there is hope.

"I have seen a change in how young people are willing to disclose about their mental health struggles," she said.

On Jan. 25 the principal of Rowe Middle School sent a disturbing email to parents. He said an ambulance took two children to the hospital after they apparently tried to kill themselves. Fortunately, the kids survived and the principal said all students were given access to counselors.

"Middle school is hard for a lot of people," said Trombetta, whose group is focused on preventing suicide and substance abuse.

It does that in part by running 24-hour crisis lines. It also runs a special YouthLine open daily from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

"They can text us, call us, chat or email," Trombetta said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the suicide rate among kids 10 to 14 years old has risen steadily over the years, doubling nationwide from 0.9 per 100,000 in 2007 to 2.1 per 100,000 in 2014.

"We have a mental health system that arguably doesn't work very well," explained Trombetta.

And she said she and other Lines for Life staff members find that young people are increasingly isolated, spending more and more time alone in their rooms.

"It's sort of this whole secret life that a lot of young people have right now using technology," Trombetta said. "You may have a lot of friends or you may know a lot of people or you may have a lot of followers on your Instagram account but you feel more isolated than ever."

Trombetta also said the problem is due in part to the economy.

"Kids are left home alone more, parents aren't just working at work, they're working at home," she said. "They're constantly distracted on their own phones and their own devices."

Trombetta said adults can help by asking questions and being non-judgmental.

"If you notice that their mood has changed, that their group of friends has changed, that they are spending more time alone maybe with the door closed, that maybe they're crying more than usual, maybe they're having a hard time sleeping, maybe they're stressing out and telling you how much they hate everybody. That would be a time to pause and without criticism wonder, 'What's going on for you?'" she explained.

Trombetta said don't be afraid to ask someone in crisis if they're thinking of killing themselves. Often, she said it's a relief for them to talk about it.

If you or a young person you know is suicidal, consult a professional counselor or call Lines for Life's YouthLine at 1-877-968-8491. You can also text teen2teen to 839863 and help is available at their website,

Help by phone is available 24-hours-a day. And Trombetta said teens supervised by a masters-level clinician take calls and texts from 4 to 10 p.m.

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