Earlier this year, the Spokane Regional Health District found disturbing results in a survey among local youth: Nearly one in five young people had seriously considered suicide within the past year. At North Central High School, this has translated into three students taking their own lives since April 2017.
These losses were even more troublesome for teachers and staff, because they said they have been working to provide resources and awareness for students for quite some time. Student leaders have now realized that they are uniquely positioned to combat this trend and make lasting change.
High school seniors Kailey Brown, Courtney Lord and Karsten Gering have been working with their student leadership team to plan training and events in order to train and encourage the student body.
They said they have seen the need for student response as they've walked the halls this school year.
"It's quieter," Brown said. "Everyone's just a little off."
"There's definitely a heavy feeling walking around," Lord agreed. "You can just tell that something's not right. And you can feel it just through everybody.
"I think people definitely need to be more informed with how teenagers deal with mental illness and deal with the different stresses in our lives, and how they just deal with everything because it's hard going through life."
A handful of North Central students and staff were identified earlier this year to go on a retreat aimed at training on subjects including mental health, depression and the signs of suicide. That core team is now planning to conduct a school-wide day of team building and bonding activities to forge relationships between students of all walks of life. They're calling it "One Tribe Day," and Student Assistant Specialist Jill Royston said having the students spearhead it is key.
"Nobody's texting me at 2:00 in the morning saying, 'Jill, I have some stuff going on,'" Royston said. "They're texting their friends. So when our principal came to the leadership group and said, "What do we do different? How do we do this better?' It was the students that really said, 'We want everybody to feel safe here.'
"I think kids are really realizing there's something special here at NC. They really do seem to care."
'One Tribe Day' is scheduled for April 13th. The student leadership hopes that the projects initiated that day continue on through the rest of the school year, and that future leadership teams will continue holding similar events.
"I think we recognize that this change isn't going to happen overnight," Karsten Gering said. "Our community isn't going to be instantly healed from the losses we've experienced, but I think just the positivity that we hope will be in the school after that and the sense that they can feel the community even if they're not ready to reach out will create a positive impact on everyone."
If you or someone you know is suffering from suicidal thoughts, there is help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 24/7, free and confidential: 1-800-273-8255.