Following the tragic suicides of two teenagers this school year, Shoreham-Wading River and neighboring school communities have come together to host educational forums for parents during the past two weeks.
Nearly 85 people from the SWR, Rocky Point, Miller Place, Mount Sinai and Port Jefferson school communities came together Monday at Mount Sinai High School for a presentation by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Titled “More Than Sad,” it was designed to educate parents on the warning signs of depression and the difference between normal teenage angst and the medical condition.
Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal opened the evening with statistics about suicide among young people, sharing a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study reporting that 425 young people between 10 and 14 years old took their own lives in 2014, compared to 384 people in that age group who died in car accidents.
“What really brings it home, we can read this, we can see the statistics, but Miller Place unfortunately last summer suffered this,” Mr. Brosdal said. “Shoreham Wading-River unfortunately [lost] two young people, age 15 and 14, and last spring was Port Jefferson … one we didn’t hear much about was in West Islip … So there are five incidents within the same group, primarily male, who committed suicide.”
Marcie Wilson, assistant director of management at North Shore Youth Council — which sponsored the event and made its counseling services available after the presentation — said she felt it was important to discuss this topic openly.
“There’s still such a stigma around mental health issues,” she said. “I think we should be able to talk about them openly and let people know about resources they have available to them.”
Although the council usually focuses its efforts on drug abuse, she said it saw an opportunity with a recent rise in national suicide rates.
Following Monday’s presentation by Anne Morrison of AFSP, parents were able to ask questions and voice concerns about the topics of depression, anxiety and suicide.
Many parents took the opportunity to speak, with questions and comments all focusing on the same concern: the importance of learning how to understand their children and offer the emotional support they need.
Questions included how to offer support to families who lost a loved one to suicide, how mental health can be addressed in school and where people can go to receive help that isn’t too expensive.
Others offered encouraging words of support and advice, having dealt with children who suffered from depression.
“This is something that is probably not easy to say, because I know a lot of people don’t often talk about it,” Lynn Jordan said. “But I’d love to share this. I have three really neat daughters … and each one of them, during their life, had depression. One of them threatened to commit suicide when she was in fourth grade … The point is this happens here and now, to my family, to your family, to anybody’s family. It’s not something that you should keep secret.”
Photo: Debra Caputo of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at Monday’s meeting. (Credit: Nicole Smith)