Two nursing students standing in front of a classroom.
Jessica Goodeill, left, and Teresa Kuhnkey, right, talked about suicide with 8th-graders at Deer Park Middle School. Photo by Sarah Schaub. 

Suicide was the subject when two WSU College of Nursing students visited an 8th-grade class in Deer Park recently. 

“I have a daughter in 8th grade,” nursing student Jessica Goodeill told the class. “She was having suicidal thoughts, but luckily we were able to work through it.”

Teresa Kuhnkey said she wasn’t so lucky; her daughter, a high school student, attempted suicide. “She spent a little time in the hospital and she’s doing much better,” Kuhnkey told the class.

They had the 8th-graders’ attention.

The sessions are part of the senior nursing students’ community-health clinicals, developed last year at the request of Deer Park Middle School students and with the help of Principal Tim Olietti. Kuhnkey and Goodeill brought their intensely personal take to this year’s event.

They noted that the suicide rate among kids ages 10 to 14 doubled from 2007 to 2014.

Ashley Hansen, the language arts teacher whose class Kuhnkey and Goodeill visited, said suicide awareness is a concern and a topic of conversation among middle-schoolers.

While that seems very young, Principal Olietti noted, “What tougher time does a person go through than middle school in terms of self-image and wondering who they are?”

The nursing students guided the 8th-graders through true-or-false questions about suicide, then talked about causes and the actions they could take.

Among the class’s suggestions: Be a friend to someone. Stop bullying if you see it. Tell an adult.

Goodeill told them, “You guys know this.”

The 8th-graders asked questions: “When you call a suicide hotline, who picks up?” (Answer: someone who is trained to help.)

Later, Goodeill and Kuhnkey credited Deer Park Middle School for raising students’ awareness.

“This school talks a lot about being a buddy, being a friend; they call it being an upstander instead of being a bystander,” Goodeill said.

Especially concerning the topic of suicide, Kuhnkey said, “The more it gets talked about, the less power it has.”

–Story by Addy Hatch 


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