Suicide high

Faced with a wave of teen-age suicides in the community, what can a principal do?

A national survey in 2003 by the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System found 16.5 percent of high school students had so seriously considered suicide that they made a plan to carry it out, and 8.3 percent had attempted it in the previous year . . .

But even someone like (Principal John) Neary, who knows the numbers and sees the kids, was shocked when he checked the dark, bloody Web sites two of the Clayton Valley girls were visiting before they died. The sites feature postings from other visitors who not only approve of hurting yourself but also often encourage it.

Clayton Valley High held a forum for parents and students to discuss the warning signs of suicide and urge parents to be involved in their children’s lives.

About Joanne


  1. When our daughter Jessie was around three or so my wife and I started looking at some nearby nursery schools for her. We went to small, slightly down-at-the-elbows one, but which had a good reputation, and were ushered into the head person’s tiny office. We sat down, and the somewhat imposing school mistress (or whatever her title was) fixed an intimidating stare on first my wife and then me, paused a few moments too long, and then announced, “Fairfax County [Va] has one of the highest teenage suicide rates in the nation.”

    My wife and I looked at each other in amazement and then blurted out in unison, “But Jessie is only three!”

    Her point, we then learned, was that in yuppiefied Fairfax County competition to get into Thomas Jeffferson (the gifted high school) and then Harvard/Stanford begins very early, and puts intense pressure on all concerned. Sleepy Hollow, she then pointed out, was not an “academic” nursery school. It’s emphasis was on fun, etc., not accelerated preparation for elementary school, etc.

    We liked that, after the initial shock, and Jessie had a fine two years there.

  2. Not so much the suicide, but the cutting deal seems to be in a sense contagious (as are eating problems). It is not clear why.

    It is my belief that parents need to be MORE involved with their children just as the culture says less.

  3. Richard Brandshaft says:

    “…third most common cause of death among 15- to 19-year-olds…”

    That may be literally true but… Young people are relatively unlikely to die of natural causes. It’s hardly surprising that violence (self-inflicted or murder) and accidents are near the top of the list of causes of death.

    “Each year, 520,000 teenagers need medical care after attempting to kill themselves, and nearly 5,000 youths ages 15 to 19 kill themselves each year.”

    A strange comparison: “teenagers” try to kill themselves and “youths ages 15 to 19” do. A sentence like that usually means someone is trying to slant the numbers, but who is trying to do what here eludes me. If 13 and 14 year olds try to kill themselves at the same rate, 15 to 19 accounts for about 371,428. 5,000 actually killing themselves is a “success” rate of 1 in 74. Either teens who attempt suicide are very inept or something else is going on.