UNION TOWNSHIP | The suicide of a Wheeler High School student earlier this year was the catalyst for a program offered Monday at the school.
“Teens and Suicide: An Open Dialogue” was presented by the Wheeler High School guidance department and the Family & Youth Services Bureau in the high school auditorium.
About 100 students, parents, school personnel and residents attended the event, which focused on awareness and prevention.
Wheeler High School guidance counselor Kim Lambka said she wanted to bring the issue of teen suicide into the open so people can learn warning signs and risk factors and reach out to anyone who may be contemplating suicide.
“We lost a senior to suicide in September of this year,” Lambka said. “I really feel that this is a topic that is not addressed enough because we feel it will not happen to anyone we know.”
Family & Youth Services Bureau clinical services counselors Laura Black, Tom Moeller and Emily Aytes presented statistics on teen suicides, the role mental health issues and substance abuse play, and how to cope with grief after a suicide.
Black said one of the most important things a person can do is ask a teen straight out if they are planning to kill themselves because this could prevent them from doing it.
“It never hurts to ask,” she said.
Warning signs include a sense of hopelessness, increased anger or drug use, social isolation and mood swings, Black said.
No two individuals present the same warning signs, however, and there is no clear way to predict who will commit suicide. That's why it's so important to take a person seriously if they say they want to kill themselves, Black said. Between 50 and 75 percent of people who attempt suicide have told someone they were planning to do it, she said.
Black also stressed the need to eliminate teens' access to firearms and pills, as those are the most common methods of suicide for males and females, respectively.
Nancy VanVolkenburgh, director of clinical services with the Family & Youth Services Bureau, said when it comes to preventing teen suicide, everyone has a responsibility.
“Parents, schools and the community all have a role to play in reducing the rate of teen suicide,” she said.