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Special Report: Eugene woman helps others after daughter's suicide

Roxanne Wilson is creating a nonprofit to help teens learn the skills they need to survive in today's world.

Posted: Jul. 25, 2018 7:23 PM
Updated: Jul. 25, 2018 9:21 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- A Eugene woman is trying to turn the death of her teenage daughter into a way to help others.

Chloe Wilson died in February. She was just 14 years old.

Chloe was one of five adolescents who took their own lives at the beginning of the year in Lane County. Her mother, Roxanne Wilson, said they didn't see any warning signs.

"I can't imagine pain worse than this," Wilson said. "I had no idea and we didn't see it coming at all, no clue, just totally blindsided."

Roger Brubaker, the suicide prevention coordinator for Lane County, said none of the deaths were related and there weren't any common risk factors. He said there hasn't been an overall increase in suicides in Lane County, but something needed to be done, so they activated an incident command structure.

Since then, they've trained 16 people to go into agencies, schools and medical offices in the community.

"We've found that people are very hungry for this information," Brubaker said. "They really want practical steps that can help them and their families."

It's a new concept across the country and a first in Oregon. Brubaker said they used the QPR model to train parents, staff and administrators. It stands for question, persuade and refer.

Brubaker said it's important to keep the conversation going with teens.

"Research shows time and time again if you have a conversation with the teen, really with anyone about the concept of suicide, as long as it is done safely and in a non-judgmental way, it’s not going to introduce a new idea in their head," he said. "What it’s really going to do is provide a source of relief for that person."

Since the death of her daughter, Wilson has been working to create the nonprofit Fifth Corner with Roberta Howard, the executive director of the Willamette Leadership Academy.

They've been holding weekly meetings since March to help teens tackle some of the issues they face today. Each week, they bring in experts to talk about subjects like de-escalation, suicide prevention and overall wellness.

They're also working to open a home to give kids a safe place to live and work on their social, physical, emotional and mental wellness. In the first year, there will be room for 72 middle and high school aged kids. By the third year, they'll be able to help 180 kids of all ages.

Wilson said they're surviving, but it isn't easy. She said they're leaning on each other for support and they often turn to the "serenity prayer" to help them heal.

She said while they have the wisdom to know what they can and can't change, they'll always struggle with the part about acceptance.

"We know that Chloe's gone and it's forever and we can't bring her back," Wilson said. "As much as that hurts, we know that's not something we can change. We do have the wisdom to know that we can't and we can accept that part of it. What we won't accept, never, is that she died for nothing. She will never die for nothing. It will never happen. We'll spend the rest of our lives making sure she didn't die for nothing."

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