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Gov. Brown cites child suicide concerns among reasons for vaccinating educators ahead of seniors

Educators will start being vaccinated the week of Jan. 25.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced Friday, amidst the vaccine snafu, that educators and school staff will be vaccinated ahead of seniors.

"I talked with the CEO and President of Salem Health on my vaccination tour this week," said Gov. Brown. "She is hearing of many 11 and 12-year-olds attempting suicide."

"Thankfully not as many kids are acting on it as thinking about it," added Jeff Carr, CEO of Albertina Kerr, an organization that provides mental health services to young people.

Carr said the pandemic has taken a toll on our youth by cutting off their social interaction.

"I just think kids across the spectrum are struggling," he said. "I think the longer this goes on the more risk we're going to have as a society."

Carr believes a return to the classroom will be good for students. They will get a formal education and an informal education.

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Experts believe a return to the classroom will help kids' mental health.

"They learn how to navigate relationships with adults and peers," said Carr. "They learn how to express themselves."

All of which can help improve a kid's mental health, according to licensed psychologist Sandy Ramirez. 

"They would have something to keep them busy and also they'd be with their peers," said Ramirez. "It would normalize their life again. They go back to what's familiar and comfortable to them."

This is exactly what Gov. Brown has in mind by moving educators and school staff ahead of seniors in the vaccination line.

"We know that our schools are a place of social interaction," said Gov. Brown. "They're a place where young people, students, can get their behavioral health and emotional supports met."

Educators and school staff can begin vaccinations the week of Jan. 25. In some counties, it may be sooner. Vulnerable seniors 80 and older can begin vaccinations on Feb. 8.

If you're struggling from a mental health crisis or suicidal thoughts, help is available. 

The Multnomah County Mental Health Call Center is available 24 hours a day at 503-988-4888. Lines for Life is also available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

RELATED: Portland Public Schools and teachers reach agreement on safety conditions during limited in-person instruction

RELATED: Reopening Oregon schools: What your district's return plan looks like

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