On Monday night, a few hundred students, teachers, and staff members at Princeton High School received an email with a link to a Google document titled “Suicide Note.”
Many of the people who received the note jumped into action when they saw the cry for help. “Dad, you better see this,” one parent said, describing how his son rushed downstairs to show him the email around 10 p.m. Monday. Parents, teachers, and staff members called the police and the school district administration.
Police were dispatched promptly to the home of the student, who is safe and is receiving the treatment she needs.
“We want to express our gratitude to the students, faculty and staff, and families, who discovered this information and contacted PHS administration,” Princeton High School Principal Frank Chmiel wrote in an email to the school community just before midnight on Monday. “We want to thank them for the care they have demonstrated for both the student and our school community.”
Counseling services will be provided to students and staff. School counselors, a student assistance counselor, the dean of students, the two psychologists from the high school child study team, and other resources will be available to students and staff members.
The pandemic has presented many challenges to students, teachers, and parents. Children already coping with mental health conditions have been especially vulnerable to the changes.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts among adolescents jumped 31% in 2020, compared with 2019. In February and March of 2021, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts were 51 percent higher among girls aged 12 to 17 than during the same period in 2019.
In October of 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Children’s Hospital Association said the pandemic-related decline in child and adolescent mental health has become a national emergency.
Many of the warning signs of suicide are also symptoms of depression. They are (Source, Johns Hopkins Medicine):
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Withdrawal from friends and family members
- Acting-out behaviors and running away
- Alcohol and drug use
- Neglecting one’s personal appearance
- Unnecessary risk-taking
- Obsession with death and dying
- More physical complaints often linked to emotional distress, such as stomachaches, headaches, and extreme fatigue
- Loss of interest in school or schoolwork
- Feeling bored
- Problems focusing
- Feeling he or she wants to die
- Lack of response to praise
Another warning sign is making plans or efforts toward committing suicide:
- Says “I want to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide.”
- Gives verbal hints, such as “I won’t be a problem much longer,” or “If anything happens to me, I want you to know”
- Gives away favorite possessions or throws away important belongings
- Becomes suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
- May express weird thoughts
- Writes one or more suicide notes
Seek help from a healthcare provider if you think your teen may be depressed. If you are concerned about a friend at school, tell a teacher, counselor, or administrator. If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, immediately call or text 988. The national suicide hotline is staffed around the clock. For information about warning signs, information for veterans, and local crisis centers, visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Call your local police department and they will help you get the resources you need for a loved one or yourself. The police are trained and equipped to connect you with resources and the help that you or a friend or loved one need.
Editor’s note: Suicide is a public health crisis. We believe it is important to report on suicide, to name it, and to raise awareness about the issue.