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Senate committee sends resolution to floor

by Merrie Leininger

The state Senate committee on Human Resources and Facilities decided Friday to send a resolution supporting suicide prevention programs to the floor after Gardnerville suicide survivors and students testified to its need.

Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School counselor Mary Wolery and students Heidi O’Hair and Erin Granat told the committee about the effectiveness of the Yellow Ribbon project, a suicide prevention program established in secondary schools this year.

Wolery said a recent survey of Douglas County students revealed that in the past year, 31 percent of students had seriously considered committing suicide and 11 percent had attempted it.

“At my school, that would translate to 88 students. I believe that number is accurate because I deal with students on a regular basis who come into my office and are so desperate, they feel they have no other choice,” Wolery said.

Granat told the committee that suicide is prevalent, even in small-town Gardnerville.

“I live in a quiet, small town. Gardnerville is a safe place, but even in Gardnerville, people commit suicide,” she said. “Four students in my school have had parents commit suicide recently.”

Wolery said the Yellow Ribbon project had affected a lot of students and teachers at the school, and even a month after speakers Dar and Dale Emme visited the school, her students were still asking for yellow ribbon cards to give to their friends.

“We do counseling at our school – our resources are stretched, but we do some counseling. But the Yellow Ribbon project reached 3,500 students in the district and it cost only about $4,500. That is very inexpensive when you consider what the life cost may be,” Wolery said.

The resolution does not include funding for suicide prevention projects.

Sen. Ray Rawson, R-Las Vegas, chairman of the committee, said the legislators approved a controversial bill in 1993 that required the school boards to create a suicide awareness course all students must take before graduation.

Cindy Marchant, mother of Eric Marchant, who committed suicide at the age of 13 last summer, said she feels the suicide prevention course taught to students is much too little.

“After his death, we didn’t know anything about suicide, even though it had touched our lives three times,” Marchant said. “We were trying to educate ourselves and find out what kind of education students get in school. When we found out it was one small section of a health class in the 9th grade, I thought, this is just not good enough.”

Republican Sen. Ann O’Connell of Las Vegas said she sponsored the resolution after a constituent, and member of her Sunday school class, Linda Flatt, called her to discuss the need for more education about suicide in Nevada, which has double the national rate.

Flatt lost her son to suicide in 1994. She and three other people who have lost family members also spoke to the committee before the group unanimously passed the resolution.

“We normally don’t pass bills the same day as the hearing, but this is such an important issue,” Rawson said.