Helen DeVos Children’s hospital launches new program focused on teen suicide

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV) – Shandy Longcore was depressed, didn’t feel pretty, when she sneaked into her parents’ basement and grabbed a hunting rifle.

She was 10.

“I loaded it, I pointed it at my chest and I pulled the trigger,” she said.

Emergency room doctors were able to patch up the entrance and exit wounds.

That was 20 years ago. On Thursday, Longcore, of Rockford, was at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids to help announce a new program paid for by “i understand,” a nonprofit that focuses on suicide prevention.

It will allow the hospital to pay for a clinical nurse specialist who will work with families with children who have committed or tried to commit suicide.

The nurse will also help train nurses in working with families — a need that has never been greater.

In Michigan, 16 percent of teens seriously consider suicide, according to a 2015 study. One in 11 attempts it. In 2014, the most recent year for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have data, it was the second leading cause of death for children and adults ages 10 to 34.

Vonnie Woodrick created the “i understand” organization after her husband took his own life 14 years ago.

“I thought death by suicide was something a crazy person did,” Woodrick said. “But now, we know death by suicide is a side effect of an illness, so we need to treat all mental health issues like illnesses, and that’s why we’re here in the hospital setting.”

The new specialist, Ashleigh Kearns, said the care won’t end after the family leaves the ER.

“As a community, we have the opportunity to, number one, decrease the stigma, but we also have the opportunity to change the role and say we’re going to make this a priority in our Children’s Hospital and in our community,” Kearns said.

>>> See video above to learn more.

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