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'As young as 6-years-old': McLane Children's training Child Life Specialists to help prevent suicide

McLane Suicide Prevention
Posted at 5:27 PM, Jan 24, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-24 18:27:55-05

TEMPLE, Texas — Suicide is very prevalent in young people, and that's why McLane Children's Hospital in Temple is training Child Life Specialists to know the warning signs and to jump into action.

14-year-old Zyler Ogden lost his 13-year-old friend Mackaillah to suicide.

“We were worried because she wouldn’t answer the text — that is when I started thinking something was wrong, but I kept texting her in the day," Zyler said.

Later that day, he was informed she had taken her own life.

 The American Academy of Pediatrics saw a 166 percent increase in suicidal ideations from 2016 to 2022.

McLane Children’s Hospital officials say it’s a problem in Central Texas.

“We’re seeing that in out hometown, and right in our backyard," said Child Life Manager at McLane Children's Hospital, Tina Ulanowski.

"Child Life Specialists are on the front lines of meeting children and trying to get them to the right services.”

That’s why Baylor Scott and White held a two-day training for Child Life Specialists on how to see warning signs quickly, and how to get the patients, parents, and siblings help.

“It may be teens having chronic illnesses, and it’s painful — 'I’m tired of pain, I have no friends, I feel isolated' — all of these are warning signs and risk," Ulanowski said about what to look for in these cases.

It’s not all sick children with suicidal thoughts though, and it’s not all teenagers, either.

"When it comes to ideation and attempts, we see kids as young as six, because they don’t have the ability to see the finality of death, but they know there are things they can do to make them not hurt anymore," Ulanowski said.

Baylor Scott and White is hoping that this training will help prevent more deaths by suicide — it could have helped Mackaillah, and then her friend Zyler wouldn’t have had to go through this nightmare.

“I woke up and thought, 'This had to be a dream'," Zyler said.

For more information on the Child Life Program through Baylor Scott and White, click here.