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Medford mothers seek answers amid rising youth suicide rates in Oregon

(Courtesy: Lisa Hutchins)
(Courtesy: Lisa Hutchins)
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Grace Holt was 15 when she lost her life to suicide. Her mother, Susan Holt said she had no idea that her daughter was struggling with thoughts of suicide.

According to the latest Center for Disease Control and Prevention report, suicide is now the leading cause of death among Oregon's youth and local mothers are turning to their kids to find out why this is and how they can help.

"We just got together and we were like, we've got to do something more than talking to adults," said Andrea Berryman Childreth, "That's all that's happening right now, adults are talking to each other about solutions and nothings working. We need to go to the kids instead."

Childreth said like Holt, her daughter has also struggled with mental health issues and was in treatment for 2 years after having thoughts of suicide at the age of 15.

"I have a daughter that struggles with neurological disorders and then also mental illness, and through the years we have fought a lot of stigma and shame surrounding that," said Childreth.

Both Hold and Childreth said they want to make sure teens feel heard and provide solutions as parents so that no one else has to go through what they went through.

The pair teamed up and founded Champions of Change, a focus group of teens that comes together to connect through open conversations about suicide and depression. The group was founded after a local South Medford High School student lost his life to suicide.

Following the first two meetings, Childreth and Holt say they were shocked by the response.

"What I was really surprised about was not necessarily that social media is really impacting them, or it's making them feel alone or feel anxious, cause I feel anxious with social media," said Childreth. "It was the intensity and the emotion that they were showing behind it that I was like, holy cow, this is a problem."

On Wednesday, News 10 sat with some of the teens in the group and talked about how the meetings have affected them.

"When topics like suicide and stuff come around, we have nowhere to go, other than maybe our friends," said Talia Hutchins, a South Medford High School student, "I think groups like this are super beneficial."

Jagger Burrill, another South Medford High School student said that Champions for Change is exactly what they needed.

"A lot of people feel like they are alone and they're the only ones going through things," said Burrill. "When we came and had our first meeting everybody was talking about similar things, and similar problems that they were going through, and everyone agreed on the same things."

The teens said during the meetings everyone agreed that the pressure of social media was the biggest cause of anxiety and depression.

Burrill pointed out that the pressure is significant particularly since most teens spend a lot of time on their phones.

"Even seeing people post pictures on a vacation and they have a perfect body, you look at yourself and you kind of pick yourself apart," he said.

The teens said, the group has given them a sense of relief by providing them a place where they could relate to and confide with others.

Calli Follett, another South Medford High School student said it always helps to talk and get things off your chest.

"It makes people feel better about themselves," said Follett. "Especially when you have an environment like this when you can see you're not alone in this, and there's so many people that feel the same way as you."

Addressing the stigma around suicide Follett said the group helped alleviate it.

"I feel like (the group addresses) any person who had any misconceptions like 'oh I don't want to go talk about suicide that's sad'" he said " it's not like that at all, it's really, I feel so happy afterward."

The group, Champions of Change hopes to be a model for similar groups to start across the country. The organizers said they are also hoping to expand their demographic.

In the past two meetings, about 10 girls have attended, but only 5 boys were in attendance. Burrill said this is likely because "guys try to appear manly and don't want to be vulnerable."

Both teen girls and boys are encouraged to attend the next meeting, which will be held in April. More information about the next meeting will be posted on their website,

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