Bruce Brown

Why would a class president, successful athlete and solid student take his own life?

It may be no more rare than one branded an outcast.
Chances are, when a person commits suicide, there were risk factors and signs that could have shown the way to treatment to avoid the tragedy. From outcast to leader, depression and mental issues can add up to disaster.
“Suicide knows no boundaries,” said Michelle Izzo-Voss of the Jacob Crouch Foundation, which shared the stage at Lafayette Middle School with Faith House on Wednesday in a program designed to inform educators of risk factors for suicide, mental illness and bullying.
“It varies, depending upon age, sex and ethnicity,” Izzo-Voss said. “Teachers are in a unique position to recognize signs and to help. We’re not expecting you to counsel the students. We want to make you more aware, and better able to identify factors, and then refer the student to the appropriate resources.
“Without help, the program will continue to compound.”
Izzo-Voss stressed that teachers should be aware of protocol and proper steps to take at their individual schools.
There are an estimated 750,000 teens in America who are depressed, with 60 percent to 80 percent of those going undiagnosed, according to Izzo-Voss, who added that 63 percent of suicides display symptoms for a year before taking their life.
Some forms of mental illness prompt more boys than girls to act, while in others girls are more prone to action. Signs of risk, then, become crucial for educators, many of whom spend more hours of the day with a student than does a parent.
Faith House’s Angelle Bellard focused on its Bullies2Buddies
program, which combats the problem of bullying in schools.
“We want to empower students to react more effectively to bullying,” Bellard said. “We help the students cope with bullies, to maintain their composure and control. If they refuse to get angry, they let go of that ‘victim’ mentality.”
Tragedy can result if the victims of bullying can’t cope, as in April 1999 when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered classmates and staff at Columbine High School in Colorado.
The Faith House effort helps difuse such actions before they begin.