By Chloe Kiple
Entirely East Lansing
EAST LANSING– East Lansing High School administrators are taking decisive action on mental and emotional health in the wake of the two students who recently died by suicide.
The high school consulted Michigan State Counseling Services about how to move forward. Additionally, the high school recruited Ele’s Place, a non-profit that offers emotional support to grieving children and families, to offer six weeks of counseling and intervention to students. Ele’s Place and Michigan State Counseling Services both declined to comment.
Principal Coby Fletcher outlined his intentions moving forward in a letter to parents Feb. 9. The school will hold individual class discussions Thursday, Feb. 18.
“Students will view a presentation that addresses pertinent issues relating to the tragedies we have faced as a school,” wrote Fletcher.
The school is also hosting a forum Feb. 24 that will educate parents about teen mental and emotional health.
Open dialogue between school administrators, students and their parents can aid the healing process. School administrators often hesitate to address youth suicide head on like East Lansing High School.
“The fear is that if they say the word suicide to students, they’re planting the seed in their heads,” said Kevin Fischer of National Alliance on Mental Illness Michigan (NAMI). “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Fischer said that the idea of suicide is already out there. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds in the U.S., according to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, a suicide education group.
If you are concerned that a loved one may be suicidal, Fischer said that the best way to find out is to ask them directly.
“Studies have shown that most people who are suicidal, if you ask them directly, they will answer directly because it catches them off guard,” said Fischer.
Additionally, having this kind of conversation with someone opens up an outlet for them to release some of their tension.
“The second you start having meaningful conversations with somebody about feelings of wanting to die, there’s actually a sense of the relief there,” said Nicole D’Amore of the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide. “When the secret starts to unravel a little bit it is not as intense as it was before.”
During an intervention of this nature, it is important to withhold judgment and let the suicidal person talk openly, according to NAMI. Under no circumstances should the listening party promise the suicidal person confidentiality. Instead, loved ones should seek treatment for them.
“Ask them, say, ‘Can I take you to get help? You’re my friend and I love you and I want to help you’,” said Fischer.
Four out of five teenagers who have committed suicide showed clear warning signs, according to the Jason Foundation, a non-profit that raises awareness of youth suicide.
Warning signs include disconnecting from or changing friends, altering appearance, and general withdrawal from routines and normal activities.
“In general, it’s a drastic change in behavior,” said Fischer.
If you or a loved one is in a crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For more resources and information about suicide and mental health, visit namimi.org.