Tuesday night, Albemarle High School put together a panel on suicide prevention. It's a topic on many people's minds after recent events rocked the high school community, and the community at large.
In the aftermath of the Stony Point murder-suicide at the end of August, where Noah Romando, a former Albemarle High School student, killed himself and his family, many people in the community were left searching for answers. It was also a tragedy that unnerved many parents at the school.
"It just sends that cold chill down your spine because it's part of your community. It's kids that went to your school, it's kids that went to your church. Kids you know from other activities and it just breaks your heart," said Monica Pawinski, the president of Albemarle High School Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO).
Now, the high school is hoping the tragedy will open the lines of communication between parents and their children.
"So many people have so many different questions. 'How do I talk to my child about suicide?' 'Suicide has affected my family, when is the right time to talk about it?' 'What should I say?' 'Should I use the word suicide?' There's so many questions that I'm hearing from people and that's exactly why the PTSO is having this event," said Albemarle High School Principal Jay Thomas.
Organizers of the suicide prevention panel say that several parents reached out to them, wanting to know more about preventing teen suicide after the story of the Romandos. So administrators and members of the PTSO created the panel of experts.
Pawinski said, "I think a lot of it was 'That could have been me. That could have been my family. That could have been my child's best friend.'"
"Our goal in this is actually, of course, prevention and to get awareness out to make sure that not another life is taken. We want people to know that there's help and there's hope and that's really what this is about," said Mary Williams, a student assistance program manager for Albemarle High School.
Tuesday night, dozens of parents looked to the experts, trying to get answers to some of those tough questions.
"There were a lot of open and honest questions, a lot of people that were concerned about a lot of different topics and situations and they weren't sure how to address them, they weren't sure how to ask them, so that was the point of having the expert panel here," said Thomas.
One of the parents, Simon Harvey, who attended the panel discussion, lost a childhood friend, who was bullied, to suicide. "His mom got home at 4:00 p.m. and he was hanging in the shower so I've always remembered that," he said.
During the panel discussion, Harvey asked about the role of social media and if parents should use it to keep a closer eye on their kids. The panel told parents to look for warning signs such as violent behavior and recklessness, but stressed perhaps the best thing they can do is keep the lines of communication open and do less talking and more listening.
According to a school climate survey conducted by Safe Schools Healthy Students, 11 percent of students in Charlottesville and Albemarle County reported seriously considering suicide.
Principal Thomas says student health is the school's number one priority, and they hope to continue this type of dialogue throughout the year.
Tuesday, December 10 2013 8:13 PM EST2013-12-11 01:13:23 GMT
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