LONG BEACH - A group of concerned residents are making strides toward ending the threat of youth suicide in the area, and they need your help.

Betty Johnson of Community Impact on Suicide, a public interest group formed 16 months ago, approached the city council for support in the form of a written endorsement. CIS is applying for a grant from the State of Washington, and an endorsement from the city of Long Beach would allow the group to ask for more money.

Johnson said the $40,000 block grant would be used to hire a part-time administrator who would do organizational work now done by volunteers.

"We need to hire someone to focus our goals and implement strategy. We would like to get better organized," said Johnson at the March 1 meeting.

The council decided they would send a letter of endorsement and encouraged more people to get involved.

"You've got our backing, that's for sure," said councilman Gordon Zuern. "There is not a family on the Peninsula that has not been touched by suicide."

Suicide SignsIndications a person might be contemplating suicide include:

• A previous suicide attempt

• Current talk about suicide, or making a suicide plan

• Strong wish to die, preoccupation with death, giving away prized possessions

• Serious depression, moodiness, expressions of hopelessness

• Increased alcohol and/or other drug use

• Recent suicide attempt by a friend or family memberSince CIS was formed, Johnson said the most important thing they have done is to join forces with Youth Suicide Prevention (YSP) of Washington. The presence on the Peninsula represents the first branch outside of the Washington Department of Health.

According to YSP, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for young people, ages 15 to 24, in Washington. Only unintentional injury accounts for more deaths, and the use of a firearm is the most common method of youth suicide.

Vicki Flamentis from the Pacific County coroner's office said over the past nine years, there have been about five suicides a year in Pacific County. In 2002, Pacific County saw three people younger than 23 take their own life; in 2003, the total number of suicides dropped to two - neither were teens.

Flamentis said it is hard to estimate were Pacific County ranks among other counties in the state but suspects the area to be similar to other areas of the same size.

"I have never seen a document that compares Pacific County to any other county in the state," she said.

YSP reports between 100 and 120 youths commit suicide each year, a rate of two suicides a week. While many factors influence the incidence of this problem, youth suicide is preventable. Recognizing warning signs, expressing concern and helping youth connect to community resources can help.

For every youth suicide, there are another 20 suicide attempts, seven of which result in hospitalization. One in five youths in Washington report they have seriously considered suicide. One in 10 Washington youths have attempted suicide.

Seventy percent of youth suicides are committed by white males. While the suicide death rate for males is four times higher than for their female counterparts, females have a much higher nonfatal, but hospitalized, suicide-attempt rate. Youth considered academic "high-achievers" are among those who may be at risk.

To get involved with Community Impact on Suicide and YSP in Pacific County, call Betty Johnson at 642-6231 or the Washington State Department of Health at (360) 236-3675.

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