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Teen suicide is something we all need to talk about

Remember the theme from M*A*S*H?

Love the tune. Hate the lyrics.

A brave man once requested me to answer questions that are key

'Is it to be or not to be' and I replied 'oh why ask me?'

That suicide is painless it brings on many changes

And I can take or leave it if I please.

And you can do the same thing if you choose.

Cheryl Diaz' 14-year-old daughter, Reina, chose suicide on Aug. 26, approximately two months after another young Jackson County teen girl, a close friend of Reina's, also died by suicide.

Suicide is painless? Try telling that to a mother whose life was ripped apart just two weeks ago.

It brings on many changes? Not good ones. Diaz and her husband have five surviving children. Try dealing with soul-searing "what if" questions from your traumatized kids. Or your own aching desires for one more chance to hold your daughter tight. One more hug, smile or kiss. One more "I love you."

Wishes that will never be granted. Not in this life, anyway.

"This is so final," said Diaz. "I want kids to know you can't come back from (suicide). They just don't realize there's so much more to live for. And the hurt they leave behind."

Diaz' daughter was the fourth child under the age of 18 to die by suicide in the county this year. We lost five more kids to suicide last year.

In fact, suicide is the No. 2 cause of injury death among Oregon youth under 24. And it is preventable, said Gretchen Ericson, youth suicide prevention coordinator for Jackson County Mental Health.

But we have to start talking honestly about it, she said.

"We're not talking about this, and it's not working," said Ericson. "But you can bet the kids are talking about it."

Reina suffered from untreated depression, her mother realizes. There is no glory in following a friend's worst possible decision, made at the lowest point of her life.

But Reina also enjoyed creating art, playing sports and achieving scholastically. Her life is best honored by celebrating those aspects that reflect the best in Reina.

"She was such a beautiful, gifted artist," said Diaz. "I begged the kids at her funeral, 'Talk to your mom and dad. This isn't the way.' "

Community members are invited to join an ongoing youth suicide prevention coalition. The group's next meeting is from 3 to 4 p.m. Tuesday in the Carpenter Room of the Medford library, 205 S. Central Ave.

Please help our kids by joining in the effort to prevent teen suicide. Contact Ericson at 774-7950 or via e-mail at ericsogl@jacksoncounty.org.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.