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'Tragedies that don't have to happen': What's being done to prevent teen suicides?

Six years ago, Rigdon Sherman committed suicide before he could make it to 9th grade. Rigdon's mom, Kristen McGillvrey, says she didn't notice any signs at the time.

EUGENE, Ore. - There's a new plan in the works to save the lives of Lane County Students.

After five youth suicides in the county already this year, a local pediatrician says it's time for a new approach.

The new program is called "Hope Squads," and its plan is to start next school year in every Eugene 4J, Springfield and Bethel school district, as well as several Catholic schools.

It's a peer-based system that's been successful in 10 other states.

Representatives from the school districts, the Governor's Office, the State Legislature and Health and Youth Services are all attending a summit later this month to start working on the program.

The hope is that everyone working together can prevent teen suicide in our community.

Six years ago, Rigdon Sherman committed suicide before he could make it to 9th grade. Rigdon's mom, Kristen McGillvrey, says she didn't notice any signs at the time.

Today, Lane County Public Health reports that among 8th graders, 30 percent have depression, and 24 percent have considered suicide. Of that 24 percent, 13 percent have attempted suicide.

Pediatrician Pilar Bradshaw is starting Hope Squads, hoping to change that. It's a group of students at each school, chosen by other students.

"The kids then are trained to notice and be able to sort of support kids that are having trouble and bring them to adult attention," said Dr. Bradshaw.

The adults then connect those students to mental health services, because, just like with Rigdon, parents don't always know what's going on. Dr. Bradshaw says often that other kids are in the best situation to help.

"The sad fact is that most kids tell another friend that they're really, really struggling," said Dr. Bradshaw. "Then the friend doesn't tell an adult, so Hope Squads switches that all around."

Several Catholic schools, Eugene 4J, Bethel and Springfield schools are participating.

"These are tragedies that don't have to happen," said Brian Megert, a Special Programs Director from Springfield Public Schools. "I think it's timely and it's our obligation as community members to come together on this."

The overall goal is to bring the numbers down, change the culture and change the stigma. McGillvrey says she hopes it works.

We spoke to another parent whose daughter committed suicide earlier this year. She’s started a peer support nonprofit for anyone in need of help right now.

The summit is a week from Tuesday, and representatives from the schools, Health and Youth Services, the Governor's Office and local politicians will be there to discuss details.


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