By Maddy PUMILIA
Experts in suicide prevention met recently with parents at Lanterman Auditorium after a student at La Cañada High School jumped to his death from the rooftop of one of the school’s buildings on Friday, March 1. The school paid for counseling services the weekend after the suicide and had professionals come onto the school campus the following Monday. The school provided additional resources for parents on its website as well as holding the parents’ meeting.
At the meeting was a panel that included Dr. Laurel Bear, director, Student Services/Gateway to Success at Alhambra Unified School District, Richard Lieberman, school psychologist at the L.A. County Office of Education, Daniela Covel, Outreach Program director for Teen Line, Jenny Pascal, training director for Teen line, Paul Royer, social worker, Debra Kessler, psychologist, Melissa Johnson, founder and CEO of the Institute for Girls’ Development, Rick Mogil, program director at the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services and Veronica Scarpelli from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Panelists talked about suicide prevention and then answered questions from the audience. Superintendent Wendy Sinnette expressed her sympathy and gratitude to the attendees and panelists while acknowledging the need to move forward.
“It’s really important when dealing with suicide not to romanticize it,” Sinnette said.
She cited a study of people who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. Of the 11% who survived the jump, 100% wished they hadn’t jumped.
Lieberman added the need in this type of circumstance is to memorialize the deceased, but not to romanticize the act. He added that while there is no way to tell which kid will commit suicide, past behavior is the best predicter. Risk factors include a history of depression or alcohol abuse. He said there are 30,000 suicides a year in the U.S. with 5,000 committed by youth.
“Any threat of suicide is serious,” Lieberman said.
Signs of suicide include declining academic performance, declining attendance, withdrawing from peers and giving away of possessions.
“Don’t be afraid to communicate,” Bear said. She recommended sharing information, educating oneself, reaching out and collaborating with others.
“It’s important to follow up with a lot of open communication,” Royer said.
Pascal and Covel were from the organization Teen Line. According to its website, “Teen Line is a place to seek professional help for those who are contemplating suicide, know someone who is, or is a survivor of a suicide victim.”
Teen Line trains teens for 60 hours in order to be prepared to help others who are thinking of suicide. Teen Line’s number is (800) 852-8336. They are open every evening from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. It’s free and the number won’t show up on a home phone bill. Texting is also available between 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Text “Teen” to 839863. Additional information can be found on their website teenlineonline.org. Teen Line is looking for volunteers entering the ninth, 10th and 11th grades.
“Teen Line has been an innovator in the field of suicide prevention,” Mogil said.
“It’s important to realize no one person or thing is responsible for this,” Lieberman said. “Suicide is very complex.”