OCEAN CITY – A male student at Ocean City High School died by suicide June 10. It was the third suicide of a student at the high school in four years.
The school confirmed the suicide in other media but declined to comment further, and did not return the Herald's call for comment.
In a June 11 letter addressed to families of students, School Superintendent Kathleen Taylor announced the passing of one of their high school students and said school counselors and social workers “immediately went into action this morning.”
“They are providing support to students and will be doing so throughout the week and as long as needed,” the letter read. “We also partnered with Cape Counseling to help students through this difficult time.”
Taylor wrote that the “two most important actions” were the district and school staff were responding to students’ grief with comfort and reassurance, and following a school schedule, “as there is comfort in that routine at this difficult time.”
“When a friend, classmate or a love(d) one dies, children feel and show their grief in different ways,” she wrote.
A student died by suicide in December 2014. Her family said at the time that she had been bullied and was suffering from depression.
In October 2015, less than a year later, another student died by suicide.
A statement released by the family read, “There is nothing in life that can’t be overcome with listening, caring and understanding.”
“Death is not the answer to solve one’s problems – ask for help and get help for those that ask,” it read.
At a Board of Education meeting after that death, nearly 20 people spoke before the board about suicide attempts, bullying and substance abuse in the school district.
The school district responded in the months following those two suicides by adding counselors, an anonymous reporting hotline, and this year, a teen wellness center for students facing mental health issues, it was reported.
For 2014-15, Ocean City self-reported 41 incidents of violence or bullying, the most in Cape May County, according to the New Jersey Department of Education’s annual report on violence, vandalism and substance abuse.
In 2015-16, the most recent statistics available in the same study, Ocean City was third highest in the county, at 26 incidents of violence, vandalism and substance abuse.
Middle Township School District had the highest, and Lower Cape May Regional School District had the second highest.
Suicide rates rose steadily in nearly every state from 1999 to 2016, according to the Center for Disease Control. In 2016, there were more than twice as many suicides as homicides, it reported.
On June 7, after the separate suicides of celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, The New York Times spoke with medical professionals about how to help individuals who are severely depressed.
Some of the tips the Times printed included reminding a depressed loved one you are there for them and they are not alone, listening and acknowledging pain instead of offering advice, and taking seriously any mention of death.
The Times reported it is important to ask if the person is having suicidal thoughts.
“If the answer is yes, it’s crucial that you calmly ask when and how,” the Times reported. “It’s much easier to help prevent a friend from hurting (him or) herself if you know the specifics.”
Those who are depressed, or know someone who is depressed or considering suicide, may call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
To contact Taylor Henry, email email@example.com.