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LRHS students participate in National Prevention Week


DR. MARTY SACKMANN addresses students from Lind-Ritzville High School about marijuana, mental health and opioid use during National Prevention Week on May 14. -Journal photo by Katelin Davidson

Students at Lind-Ritzville High School attended an assembly on May 14 to start discussions and awareness regarding substance abuse and mental health as part of National Prevention Week.

Coordinated by school nurse Aimee Schell, the students will spend the week learning about one topic or issue that high school students face, the negative effects surrounding those topics and the ways the students can continue to live healthy lifestyles.

National Prevention Week runs from May 14-18, and the students will hear presentations regarding alcohol prevention, prescription/opioid abuse prevention, illegal drugs, and tobacco and vaping prevention.

Monday’s assembly focused primarily on mental health, specifically suicide awareness, vaping, and marijuana and opioid consumption.

Schell and the LRHS Associated Student Body (ASB) members coordinated the assembly. FBLA students from Washtucna, who are helping coordinate National Prevention Week in their school, also attended the assembly.

Students watched short videos explaining the statistics and negative impacts surrounding each of the day’s topics. The students also heard from three guest speakers who discussed the facts regarding consuming drugs or vaping, as well as how to handle and help those who are contemplating suicide.

Jared O’Conner from the National Poison Control Center spoke first regarding vaping, or e-cigarettes. O’Conner reminded students the National Poison Control Center is available by phone seven days a week and 24 hours a day, and if they ever need advice regarding consumption of a potentially dangerous substance to call the center and determine the next steps for treatment.

There are different types of e-cigarettes, but all three types pose equal amounts of risk to the consumer. O’Conner explained many people do not believe there is a health risk involved when consuming vaping, but there is still nicotine within the e-juices of the project.

O’Conner stated there have been children deaths related to e-cigarettes because of their consumption of contact with the e-liquids. Severe exposure to the product could also cause respiratory failure or seizures, he explained.

The liquids are currently unregulated, and O’Conner said it will remain that way for the next three years. The material housing the liquids is also a risk factor, because if the casing broke, the consumer could be at risk for heavy metal poisoning, he added.

There have also been studies to show breathing in the vapors from an e-cigarette is potentially dangerous. It was previously believed those consuming the vapor second-hand would not be impacted, but studies show vaping has similar effects as smoking a cigarette.

O’Conner said in certain flavors of e-liquids, over 140 chemicals have been identified. This leads to the user, and those surrounding them when using the e-cigarette, consuming measurable levels of nicotine and chemicals.

He added since e-liquids are currently unregulated, 91.4 percent of nicotine-free samples tested positive for nicotine.

Peer speaker Marie Peterson from Youth ‘N Action spoke to students about mental illness, specifically focusing on suicide. She shared her personal experience with contemplated suicide in January, and her battle with depression.

Peterson explained she had told multiple people, including her parents, that she wanted to end her life. She was met with dismissal and refusal to take the issue seriously.

It took one friend to finally listen to Peterson, take the matter seriously and assist her with receiving the help she needed by taking her to a hospital. Peterson explained the doctors assisted with a diagnoses and helping her find ways to treat her symptoms.

Peterson said it is important for those who are depressed or contemplating suicide to know they are not alone.

In Washington state, Peterson stated suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 to 34. The rate is six times higher than the homicide rate.

Peterson explained warning signs of suicide include prolonged sickness or withdrawal, harming oneself, participating in risky behavior, excessive weight gain or weight loss, drugs or alcohol abuse, and difficulty concentrating.

After a student has discussed being suicidal, Peterson said it is the responsibility of the parents, doctors and school administration to work together and help the student connect with others.

She added if there is someone you believe is thinking about suicide, ask them or say something about your concerns to someone who can help that individual.

A lot of people will use the term “fine” when asked how they are doing, and Peterson said she uses the acronym FINE for “Feelings I’m Not Expressing” to interpret there is more happening inside than they are talking about.

Peterson explained 1 in 5 people have a mental illness, and it is important to be attentive to their needs. She added it is important for those suffering from mental illness to have an honest conversation with a doctor.

She stated 34,000 people commit suicide a year, and the warning signs can start as small as someone saying “I don’t want to be here”. In Washington alone, suicide is the eighth leading cause of death, she added.

Suicide impacts a lot of people, Peterson explained, and it is vital to find help for those contemplating suicide and to continue to be supportive throughout their journey. That journey can take a long time, Peterson admitted, but it will always be worth it in the end because you are not alone.

Peterson encouraged students to start the dialogue between one another, and to approach and ask someone if they are worried about them harming themselves. Do not be afraid to talk to someone, Peterson said, and also make sure to listen to those who are putting their trust in you.

The final speaker of the day was Dr. Marty Sackmann from Hometown Family Medicine.

Continuing from Peterson’s speech, Sackmann told the students the best way to prevent someone from committing suicide is to keep them talking and engaged. That will provide time to find the appropriate help, as well as keep them occupied with conversation.

He explained it is also important for individuals not to impair themselves when they are feeling sad, but instead to find a healthy alternative. This will allows a person to be able to truly express themselves and understand their true feelings.

In the medical field, Sackmann explained marijuana products are prescribed to patients in order to help minimize their nausea. While it reduces the urge to vomit, Sackmann said marijuana slows down the gastrointestinal tract.

The negative effect results in more absorbing, and can result in bleeds in the intestines, stomach, throat or even while having a bowel movement, Sackmann stated.

Sackmann began the discussion with marijuana use and the negative effects of youth consuming the products. He explained developing minds are more susceptible, and marijuana consumption can affect the way a person thinks and develops.

One of seven people who consume marijuana have a paranoid reaction to the product, Sackmann explained, and there is not a way to predict how marijuana will affect an individual. Those who experience the paranoia have an increased heart rate and experience extreme anxiety, he added.

When consuming marijuana, Sackmann explained the consumers life is artificially changed, and what they experience are not real feelings.

Sackmann continued his presentation by discussing narcotics and how when medications are not taken properly, it can result in the inability to breath or communicate. When narcotics are used as prescribed, they can have a positive effect and make a difference with a person’s health, he stated.

Narcan is used in the field to attempt to revive a patient who has over consumed opioids, but it is not always effective, Sackmann explained. Even if a patient can be brought back, they will have long-term negative effects because of the amount of time the brain was deprived of oxygen.

National Prevention Week will continue through Friday at LRHS, and on June 1, the Lind-Ritzville Middle School students will attend a similar assembly.


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