We lost another young person at school last night. That it happens at all if far too often, but it feels like it is becoming too common. I don’t believe that there were any suicides during my 13 years of public school education, but my mother says that there was at her high school when she was a senior. Since I have worked at the high school level there have been five in ten years.
The school community and greater community mourn with the family and all ask ourselves what are we as parents, educators and a society not doing to prepare our children to live this life? The deaths have cut across economic, academic and social groups. The young man we just lost was not part of the disenfranchised. He was well liked, smart—in all AP classes—involved in school activities—wrestling and debate—and seemed funny and outgoing. A bit of the class clown.
But what about the under achievers who frequently self-medicate with alcohol or illegal drugs? What are we neglecting to say or do or see that would prevent any student from slipping into dispair so dark that they believed they could not climb out?
The administration at school has had to walk a knife edge, wanting to acknowledge the students’ and community’s loss without glamorizing the act itself; honoring the genuine grief of students and staff, but not setting the student body into a cycle of despair. There were tears and hugs today as the shock sunk in. What did we miss?
Choked with tears, one teacher told his class that they don’t realize how important each of them is to the staff at school and encouraged anyone dealing with seemingly insurmountable problems to talk to a friend and particularly a teacher or councilor before taking a step that takes those who love them with them.
If burying a child is my greatest nightmare, having the death be at their own hand would be even more devastating. It would be a temptation to give myself the luxury of slipping into madness. My heart aches for the family.