Children and Youth

Teen’s suicide prompts call for awareness

Hollister Police Department, San Benito High School share resources available to those in need

The recent suicide of a 16-year-old San Benito High School student has prompted the Hollister Police Department and SBHS officials to recommend suicide prevention resources and encourage the community to know what signs to look out for.

Police Chief David Westrick acknowledged on Facebook that it is not common to issue a statement regarding a suicide, saying, "We don't usually do a press release on these types of calls. However, our fear is that this young man didn't know about resources that lend assistance when people are in crisis. We wanted to make sure that if others were out there, they could, if they read this release, find out that we do have resources to assist them in their time of need. I have children in their teens myself and I was personally heartbroken when I was notified of this families tragedy. I pray that they can find peace."

In its Friday press release, the HPD said that on Jan. 24, school officials received information about a 16-year-old "communicating suicidal text messages" and indicating that he might hurt himself. The teen did not attend school that day and school officials passed on the information to Hollister Police School Resource Officers, who responded to the juvenile’s home and found him deceased.  

Police said that when they arrived at the teen's home, they found the home secured and there was no answer at the door. Family members had expressed concern for the teen "and worked together with friends and family to try and locate him," the release said. Eventually, family members met with police at the home and gained entry and the teen was found with evidence indicating that it was a suicide.

"This is a tragedy and everyone involved wishes they could have done more for this person who was obviously in crisis," the HPD statement said, adding that the department, the victim's family and San Benito High School wanted to share information regarding suicide prevention. 

From the HPD release: "The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (www.sprc.org) explains that many individuals are affected by mental health problems. Mental health issues aren’t signs of weakness or character flaws. There are many ways to get help and support, including telephone and online sources of assistance, mental health services, peer supports, and other options. There are health care professionals who are specially trained to assess suicide risk and provide effective treatment for suicidal thoughts and behaviors. There is hope. Individuals with mental health problems can get better, and many recover completely. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1 (800) 273-8255. Calling 911 is always an option."

In a Jan. 27 email to SBHS staff, Principal Adrian Ramirez said that "as our school grieves the recent loss of our student, we are reaching out to provide some guidance on symptoms that may be observed in or outside of your classroom. We are specifically wanting to be proactive in doing what we can to help educate our staff on the prevention of suicide and suicide clusters, otherwise known as “copycat suicides.” Research tells us that when suicide clusters do occur, they are most commonly seen in people under the age of 25. We also know that identifying whether a student is actually suicidal is difficult. However, knowing that our students are susceptible, our team of School Psychologists and Counselors have provided the following information to help us identify possible warning signs.

Below are some warning signs to look out for. If you find a student that could possibly be at-risk, never hesitate to communicate with any administrator or counselor.

Warning Signs of Suicide

The more clues and signs observed, the greater the risk. Take all signs seriously and consider as cause to ask the student about their intent.

Direct Verbal Cues

  •  “I’ve decided to kill myself.”
  •  “I wish I were dead.”
  •  “I am going to commit suicide.”
  •  “I’m going to end it all.”
  •  “If (such and such) doesn’t happen, I’ll kill myself.”

Indirect “Coded” Verbal Cues

  •  “I’m tired of life, I just can’t go on.”
  •  “My family would be better off without me.”
  •  “Who cares if I’m dead anyway.”
  •  “I just want out.”
  •  “I won’t be around much longer.”
  •  “Pretty soon you won’t have to worry about me.”

Behavioral Clues

  •  Previous suicide attempt.
  •  Acquiring a gun or stocking up on pills.  Depression, moodiness, hopelessness.  Putting personal affairs in order.
  •  Giving away prized possessions. 
  •  Sudden interest or disinterest in religion.
  •  Unexplained anger, aggression, irritability.
  •  Drug or alcohol abuse, or relapse.
  •  Perfectionism.
  •  Recent disappointment or rejection.
  •  Sudden decline in academic performance.
  •  Increased apathy.
  •  Physical symptoms: decline in personal hygiene or grooming, eating disturbances, changes in sleep patterns, chronic headaches, stomach problems.
  •  Sudden improvement in the mood or optimism, or making of grandiose plans.

Situational Clues

  •  Being expelled from school or fired from job.
  •  Family problems or alienation.
  •  Loss of any major relationship.
  •  Death of a family member or close friend; especially by suicide.
  •  Diagnosis of a serious or terminal illness.
  •  Financial problems (self or family).
  •  Sudden loss of freedom or fear of punishment.  Victim of assault.
  •  Public shame to family or self.

 

Adam Breen

Adam Breen has been a San Benito County resident since 1980 and graduated from Sacred Heart School and San Benito High School before earning a bachelor's degree from California State University, Fresno. A father of two sons, Adam has taught newspaper, English and yearbook at SBHS for the past decade, after six years as a magazine editor for Santa Clara University. He previously was editor of the Hollister Free Lance and content director for BenitoLink.