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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 14, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 41
Youth suicide prevention funds on WA state's chopping block
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Youth suicide prevention funds on WA state's chopping block

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Each week in Washington state, an average of two young people die by suicide and another 17 suicide attempts result in hospitalization. And yet, according to Vicki Wagner, executive director for Washington state's Youth Suicide Prevention Program (YSPP), our state government is proposing to cut off all funding to the organization.

'Over the years, Washington state has gradually decreased YSPP funding from an original $500,000 a year to only $116,000,' said Wagner. 'In spite of this reduction, YSPP has continued to provide critical youth suicide prevention efforts statewide. But now, our state government is proposing cutting our funding to zero.'

If you are outraged by this news, you are not alone. To think that funding would be cut to a statewide organization dedicated to saving the lives of youth seems unbelievable. But the threat is real, even though we know that more than one in every 10 Washington state high school students reported having attempted suicide, nearly one in four (20%-25%) have seriously considered it, over 30% of LGBTQ youth report at least one suicide attempt within the last year, over 50% of Transgender youth will have had at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday, and youth suicides outnumber youth homicides.

Those are chilling statistics. YSPP and OUTLoud, the LGBT component of the organization (the only one in the state), are on the front lines of the youth suicide prevention battle, which the CDC recently called an epidemic.

Wagner is asking Washingtonians to contact Governor Christine Gregoire and state legislators to save YSPP's funding. 'Ask them to help save young lives in your community and not cut funding for suicide prevention,' she said.

The message is clear. YSPP and OUTLoud save lives. To send Gov. Gregoire a message, go to www.governor.wa.gov/contact/. To find out who your state legislator is, go to the same site and click 'Contact Your State Legislator.'

'If we lose these funds, then youth, parents, teachers, counselors, and others around the state will not get the education and training they need to prevent young people from dying by suicide,' said Wagner.

The deaths are preventable, said Wagner, but YSPP cannot do this important and vital work for free. 'Eighty percent of youths who die by suicide just want their pain to end,' said Wagner. 'Let the governor and state legislators know that because of YSPP, youth, parents, educators, peers, counselors, and others in the community know the warning signs, know what to say and what to do when a young person is at risk of dying by suicide.'

A high school student (who will remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the subject) who received YSPP's suicide prevention materials said, 'It opened my eyes to suicide and depression so I can use it in my life.'

Over the past year, Seattle Gay News, has been heavily involved in raising money for YSPP. The LGBT community has a responsibility to protect our youth from suicide. OUTLoud and YSPP are the professionals making the biggest impact. Please tell the state not to cut funding for suicide prevention so that more young people who just want their pain to stop do not die by suicide.

If you are suicidal and are in need of immediate help, call 1-800-273-TALK or 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (LGBT).

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