Suicide is preventable; it takes year-round vigilanceNational Suicide Prevention Week is over, but if there is an issue that deserves our attention 52 weeks a year, suicide is it.

Among all of last week's well-intentioned events and press releases, one item stands out, and that is the sensitive account in Wednesday's Oregonian of Sept. 8, 2003 suicide of Sen. Gordon Smith's son Garrett.

Tracing a pattern too many families will find familiar, Garrett Smith fell victim to a depression that defied all efforts at intervention and treatment. Despite loving parents, siblings and friends, despite professional treatment, the bright 22-year-old college student ended his own life.

The Smith family's openness in describing the loss of a beloved son is the best possible tribute to Garrett, similar in some ways to donating a deceased child's organs so that some other family's child can live.

There's no telling what, if anything, the Smiths could have done differently. It's certain that every family must do at least as much as the Smiths did if someone we love shows signs of suicidal thoughts - listen, show you care, be direct but nonconfrontational in asking about feelings and plans, seek professional assistance.

Beyond all this, families need to treat the risk of suicide just as they would the risk of drowning or any other form of death - stay close, intervene, don't allow qualms about privacy or personal space get in the way of saving a loved one's life. Depression is awful, but it can be treated. There is hope.

Locally, Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare, through a contract with the county, operates a 24-hour crisis intervention program that assists people at imminent risk of suicide. The crisis line is 325-5724.

Clatsop County also is offering free copies of the brochure "How Parents Can Look-Listen-Help." Call 325-8500, ext. 2600, for a copy by mail.

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