When a teenager at Newton South High School took his own life last week, the city’s third high school student to commit suicide since October, school officials addressed the tragedy directly, by sending a letter to parents a day after Roee Grutman, 17, killed himself.
“There were no indications to any of us, or to his family, that Roee was even contemplating suicide,” principal Joel Stembridge wrote.
The forthright letter, followed by an emotional community meeting this week, illustrates a marked shift from the days when suicide was spoken of in hushed tones. Now, more schools are confronting the issue swiftly and explicitly, guided by specialists who say that a frank, open discussion can help comfort and support troubled students.
“I think we know better now,” said Alan Holmlund, director of the state Public Health Department’s suicide prevention program. “We certainly recommend that schools deal with it upfront. Talking about suicide is a whole lot better than keeping it hidden.”
While schools have traditionally feared that discussing suicide could make vulnerable students more likely to consider it themselves, specialists say the concern is misplaced. In the immediate shock and grief over a schoolmate’s death, teenagers need support all the more.
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