There's an Idaho group on a mission to stop the second leading cause of death for teenagers which is suicide. The Live Wilder Foundation believes education is key to eliminating the stigma of mental illness.
Cameron Wilder's bedroom is filled with highlights from his life including his passion for musical theater, playing baseball and working for the Boise Hawks. But the memorabilia can't fill the emptiness in the room. Three years ago, at 17 years old, Cam Wilder took his life. “It can be traumatic to say your child died by suicide especially when you work in the healthcare field because people look at you like God what kind of mom are you," says Debbie Wilder.
Through their grief, the Wilders realized they needed to share their story and stop more teens from making a deadly decision. They started the Live Wilder Foundation. Its mission is to advance zero suicide for youth. “Losing one more person to suicide is one too many," says Debbie.
A look at the latest Idaho Youth Behavior Survey shows an uphill battle. Almost 20%of high school students say they've felt suicidal. 17% report they have or had a plan to end their life. Almost 10% say they've attempted to carry out that plan. Those devastating statistics are one reason Stewart Wilder thinks Idaho lawmakers are now listening and acting. “I think that's why we've had such good success with the legislature identifying suicide as the number one public health issue in the state of Idaho," he says.
The 2016 Legislature appropriated almost a million dollars to create a comprehensive statewide suicide prevention program. Some of that funding is now being used to develop a prevention program in schools. Kim Kane is in charge of the new suicide prevention office under Idaho’s Health and Welfare Department. “Right now if a suicide happens and it affects a school the State Department of Education is notified and they reach out to the school and there are protocols that the school can follow to keep the other kids safe in the wake of a suicide," says Kim. Now, there is state money being directed at targeted suicide prevention programs in Idaho Schools.
Lawmakers also agreed the state suicide prevention hotline needed stable funding. The dollars allowed the crisis line to start a texting option that can target teens. “It's what they are using, so it’s what we are going to be doing," says hotline director John Reusser. That telephone number is 1-208-398-HELP.
The Wilders see these advancements as a great start. But every time they hear of another Idaho teenager who dies by suicide, they know more can be done to save lives. “It's come a long way. But we have a long way to go," insists Stewart Wilder.