December 12, 2013 | Vol. 39, No. 50

Petersburg mental health works with high school students

Petersburg Mental Health Services will now have its own counselor present in Petersburg High School after receiving $25,000 for a suicide prevention grant.

PMHS Senior Clinician Kim Kilkenny and Behavioral Health Clinician Robin Cooley presented the grant to the Petersburg School Board Tuesday night.

“We wrote the grant last spring because it was the first time it became available with the (Alaska) Department of Education to provide services for suicide prevention,” Kilkenny said.

Cooley will hold office hours in the high school, teach suicide prevention and other awareness classes to students and work closely with school counselor Rachel Etcher.

Cooley said she isn’t just there for kids who might have suicidal ideations but also for anyone experiencing depression or even if they want to blow off steam.

Dawn Ware, school board member, asked if parents would be notified when and if a student comes to talk.

Cooley said if a situation is serious then parents would be notified.

“But if they’re just coming into to talk and they want to vent and they want support then their parents won’t be involved at that point,” Cooley said. “They don’t have to be and that’s one of the benefits of this grant is that it allows us meet with them and provide support without the parents necessarily be involved right away.”

Principal Rich Dormer said he knows of students who might not want to talk to teacher or Etcher because they don’t want school staff or their parents to know.

“As long as they’re seeing a trained professional that’s what’s good for the student,” Dormer said. “It’s nice to have more options.”

Cooley said the grant allows a bridge to form between the school and PMHS.

Kilkenny cited statics used in applying for the grant. Since 2005 there’s been three homicides, five suicides, 32 documented suicide attempts, four drug related deaths and 20 documented alcohol and drug related overdoses and accidents in Petersburg.

Between July 2007 and December 10 2010, 26 exparte orders were issued—an involuntary hold when someone is an imminent threat to themselves. Of those, ten were under 23 years of age.

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