Friday, March 1, was a sad day for our town. A teenager died on the campus of La Cañada High School.
Therapist Linda Goldman says, “Most teens have a need to tell and retell their story. They need a safe, nonjudgmental environment to express themselves. They also may choose their own way to express grief, as they are often not willing or able to express feelings to family members and may choose peers instead.” (Goldman, “Responding to Teen Grief” TAPS Magazine, Fall 2011)
The death of a teenager at LCHS on a beautiful March afternoon, confounds us all.
It is important to respond to the needs of the family of this youngster. It is equally important to openly discuss the circumstances while respecting their privacy.
This tragic death of a young teen at LCHS is not a secret. People have been talking. There have been press conferences. There has been news coverage.
LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said the student “fell to his death” Friday at about 3:55 p.m., but law enforcement authorities later said he died after jumping from a third-floor walkway of one of the school's buildings. On Monday, authorities concluded that the student had taken his own life.
Because this death was a suicide, we need to carefully discuss this tragedy. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is a public health issue. Even though it is relatively rare, one suicide can trigger others. “The way media covers suicide can influence behavior negatively by contributing to contagion or positively by encouraging help-seeking.”
The experts in the field suggest that reporters acknowledge suicide as a public health issue. They say that reporters should ask the following questions: Does the school system have a program that focused on the development of coping skills? Does it have wellness screening? Peer leadership? Does the community offer a chain of care to those at higher risk?
Was bullying involved?
We live in a small town at the edge of an urban city. We live in a community that has a sense of itself and a sense of community. We have the tools to respond.
In the days that follow, some La Cañadans will turn to their churches and synagogues seeking solace. Others will try to talk with their children. The school district appropriately canceled all activities last weekend and arranged for counselors to come to the campus.
Last Friday was a sad day for La Cañada, but the questions remain: Why?
Why did the youngster jump? What caused this?
How can we help? What should we do?
ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at anitasusan.brenner@
yahoo.com and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.