Last week a student at Penfield High School died by suicide. This death was the fourth student that Penfield High has lost in the past two years. As a parent, hearing about the death of a child by any means is heartbreaking. As a parent of a high school student, this news is alarming.
So, I attended the Mental Health and Suicide Prevention forum at Penfield High School because I wanted to know what kind of mental health supports the high school had in place for our kids. I came with questions, knowing I might not get answers. I came to listen to administrators and parents. I came out of concern for my kid and the rest of the kids attending high school. What to say? What to do? How to help? Why was there such a strong reaction from high schoolers to this latest suicide?
I saw how many people wanted to share their stories of mental illness, ask questions, and offer suggestions.
I heard that more and better communication was needed, but there is no quick fix in supporting students with mental illness.
I believe that we don’t necessarily lack mental health support in our community, it’s that mental health needs are rising in our high school and schools across the nation.
I learned that suicide doesn’t occur because one thing happens, but many things happen over time. Risk factors show up long before suicide occurs.
I learned that there are biological factors, psychological factors such as perfectionism, high anxiety, or being unforgiving of oneself, and past history of mental illness or suicide.
I learned that most teens cover up their mental illness symptoms or they are simply just misunderstood as lazy, moody. or having a bad attitude.
I learned that excessive homework is stressing out our kids, leaving them with physical health problems and lack of balance in their lives.
I heard that not every kid has a caring and compassionate relationship with their parent or an adult caregiver.
I heard that we should implement some important rituals into the school day like meditation and mindfulness, right now.
I believe that this forum was a very good first step. There are more sorrows to share and things to fix, but we can love and support each other even as we search in the dark for answers.