St. Charles Herald-Guide

Suicide is NO solution - how schools help keep kids alive

By Shonna Riggs - February 7, 2007

Editor’s note: Within the past three weeks, teenagers in New Sarpy, Edgard, and LaPlace have been killed in heart-breaking accidents related to a lethal game of Russian Roulette, a drowning on the heels of a hospital visit in Luling, and an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head

These tragedies gives us pause to think about the all-too-real potentials of teen suicide - a national problem of enormous magnitude.

In this report, staff writer Shonna Riggs tells how St. Charles Parish Schools address the issue in classes, and help keep our at-risk kids alive.

St. Charles Parish teens learn about suicide prevention in health classes where they are taught to help administrators save lives by reporting friends who seem to be at risk.

"It's better to have an ‘alive friend’ who's angry with you than a dead friend,” Wendy Roc, guidance counselor for Hahnville High School, told the Herald-Guide.

Roc says this message is important for students to consider and remember, because often they are afraid to report a friend to the counselor who might have told them he wants to end his life.

"Students shy away and don't like to tell if they think their friend might want to commit suicide because they are afraid the person might be angry with them for telling their secret," Roc says.

Roc says students are taught to ask the appropriate questions when dealing with someone that may want to take his own life.

"The first thing the student is taught to find out is 'How long has the person been thinking about committing suicide?' and next they should be asking whoever it is 'Do you have a plan, if so what is it?'"

Roc says once she is notified that a student wants to commit suicide the school's plan is activated.

"We have a ‘crisis response team’ consisting of a parent, a social worker, and a counselor that works with the student. This helps the teenager through the difficulty that is causing him to have these kinds of feelings," she says.

"If the student has been assessed as ‘high risk’ or he has a weapon and suicide seems imminent, we intervene and send him to the hospital emergency room in Luling for a psychiatric evaluation," Roc continues.

“Afterwards they are usually sent to Tulane-DePaul Psychiatric Hospital or River Parishes Hospital for further services

"As I said earlier, the student, parent, a counselor, a social worker, and sometimes even the teachers are part of the response team if the student has expressed suicidal thoughts or feelings to them."

Roc says there is a poster hanging in her office with a motto she encourages her students to follow: "Tell someone, anyone, because suicide shouldn't be a secret."

St. Charles Parish suicides 2001-2006

2001 - 5

2002 - 7

2003 - 4

2004 - 5

2005 - 9

2006 - 6

Source: St. Charles Parish Coroner’s Office. Numbers reflect all age groups, not

just teenagers.

Need help now? Call Suicide Crisis Hotline: 504-269-2673