October 14, 2010

Tragedy spurs program aimed at parents on suicide prevention

Pinkerton Academy: 
In the wake of a 15-yearold student’s death, the school
 is launching a program to confront the problem. 


Union Leader Correspondent

 — After losing a student to suicide last month, Pinkerton Academy has organized an educational program to help parents recognize the warning signs of depression.
“The death of a student is absolutely devastating to the entire community,” said Pinkerton Academy Headmaster Mary Anderson. “I’ve been in education for 36 years, all at Pinkerton, and far too often I see this.”
“I think it’s past time, as far as I’m concerned,”
 she said yesterday. “It’s a nationwide problem, and I think we need to give parents information.”
The presentation — called Helping Adults Support Grieving Teens: Recognizing the Warning Signs for Depression and Suicide — will begin at 7 p.m. on Oct. 26 at the Stockbridge Theater. Ann Duckless, a community educator and prevention specialist with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, will lead the session, providing parents with information about how to support grieving teens and the warning signs of depression or suicide.
Representatives from several community groups, including the Derry-based Center for Life Management and Community Alliance for Teen Safety, will also speak at the event. Parents will have the chance to ask questions of the several mental health experts in attendance throughout the evening.
And while Pinkerton offers several programs for students dealing with depression, Anderson said this presentation marks the first time the school has focused in on parents, though any adults from the wider community are also invited to attend.
“This is the first time, but I see the real need for this, especially with the recent death of a student,” Anderson said. “But it’s not just a Pinkerton problem or a school problem.
 It’s a community problem.”
And working directly with parents is a first step in tackling that problem, said Louise Morin-Davy, director of child, adolescent and family services for the Center for Life Management.
“I think the warning sings are there, and it’s for us to recognize,” Morin-Davy said yesterday. “But sometimes we don’t recognize them and we don’t respond to them.”
Those warning signs often include isolation, increased substance use, changes in sleep habits, decrease in appetite, excessive stress, and troubling messages on social networks, Morin-Davy said.
But for some parents, having a dialogue about depression or suicide is difficult, said Pinkerton Guidance Director Jan Deleault.
“Some are afraid of the words,” she said. “I think it needs to be brought into the open.”
The school is also arranging a similar bullying education program to run in January, which will touch further on suicide prevention.
“They’re young, and it’s not normal that they would lose a classmate,” Anderson said. “If we can save one child or get treatment for one child, it’s worth it.”
For more information about the program, contact Guidance Director Jan Deleault at 437-5200, ext. 1179.

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