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Fighting the Epidemic of Teen Suicide

Say Something


Provided by the Missoula County Sheriff's Office

In the video that will be shown at the student assembly, officers visit Frenchtown High School to notify the principal that one of the students has committed suicide. "It's time to 'Say Something'," wrote MCSO Sheriff T.J. McDermott expressing his support for the program.

SEELEY LAKE – Missoula County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) is bringing the program "Say Something" to Seeley Lake Elementary (SLE) Jan. 17 in an effort to break the stigma surrounding bullying and teen suicide.

MCSO Chaplain Lowell Hochhalter, MCSO Deputy Mike Sunderland and MCSO Sergeant Jace Dickens will give two presentations, one in the afternoon to the students at 1 p.m. and an evening presentation at 6:30 p.m. to parents and other adults in the community in the SLE gymnasium. The intent is to get people talking about bullying and youth suicide and know that it is okay to say something.

"Consistently, Montana reports one of the highest rates of suicide in the nation; many which occur right here in Missoula County," wrote MCSO Sheriff T.J. McDermott in an email. "It is time we start talking to our youth about suicide and help parents identify warning signs,"

Sunderland said researchers are finding that children are being bullied over and over to the point where they see no other option than to end their life.

"It's important our children understand that bullying takes a huge toll on the human spirit," wrote McDermott. "We need to encourage them to take a stand against bullying and speak up for fellow classmates."

Sunderland estimated that 90 percent of the attempted suicides he has worked on, the youth pointed to examples of repeat bullying.

"For me, the last time I dealt with [an attempted suicide], it almost crushed me. To have a 13-year-old look you in the face and say they want to die," said Sunderland. "Something needs to done."

Sunderland spoke with the MCSO Chaplain Lowell Hochhalter. Hochhalter travels the country holding assemblies entitled "Say Something."

On the "Say Something" website it reads: "Whether it is sex trafficking, suicide or bullying, we are about equipping students with safe and practical tools so they can recognize the warning signs and if they need to, report suspicious behavior. Together, with teachers, school administration and the students, we are fighting the epidemic of exploitation until it is no more!"

Hochhalter, Dickens and Sunderland put together an assembly for students and one for parents that will be presented for the first time Jan. 17 at SLE.

Students in fifth through eighth grade from Seeley Lake, Condon and surrounding schools will attend the afternoon production. There will be three, 14-foot screens with music, lights and a video that was shot at Frenchtown High School this past week.

"This is a real production," said Sunderland. "There will be a lot of getting students excited and getting them pumped up and then throwing some reality at them."

The evening assembly for adults will focus on helping parents identify with the issue of suicide. The one-hour presentation will include how to talk with children, identifying unusual behavior including clues on social media and resources available to parents. Following the presentation there will be an opportunity for questions.

Video that was shot during the afternoon student assembly will be shown to the adults, showing parents the students' reactions and responses to the presentations.

"We want the students and parents to know this is not a stigma," said Sunderland. "The bullying and suicide go hand in hand. A lot of kids either commit or attempt suicide because other kids are telling them they are fat or ugly or they should kill themselves. The whole motto behind "Say Something" is if you see bullying happening, just say something. If you see a friend that needs help, just say something."

Sunderland said they will have resources available following the presentation including the MCSO, Fire Department, the school and their counselors to focus on any of the students that come forward asking for help.

"Our goal is to identify those kids and get them help," said Sunderland.

Provided by the Missoula County Sheriff's Office

The intent of the "Say Something" program is to encourage students to speak up and get help if they are being bullied or see someone who is before they don't see any other option than to end their life. In the evening assembly, adults will be given tools and resources to speak up if they suspect their child or another youth needs help.

Hochhalter, Sunderland and Dickens will be on the KGVO (101.5FM/1290AM) Talk Back Radio Show the morning of Jan. 12. Everyone is invited to tune in and learn more about the assemblies.

"This is a community issue. We are all invested in our youth. We all need to look after each other's children as a community," said Sunderland. "The other reason is when you have a successful suicide of a teenager or child, it affects the entire community. One tragic event affects hundreds if not thousands of people."

Sunderland continued, "The more parents we have attend this and the more parents see other parents take interest in this issue, it's going to make it a lot easier for parents to come forward and ask for the help and prevent a child from attempting or committing suicide," said Sunderland. "Our goal is to make an impact in this community but also to take this to other schools in Missoula County."

Sunderland is looking for community volunteers that would be willing to help set up and tear down the equipment. It does not require a lot of lifting. If interested and available call 406-531-0766.


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