LITTLETON, COLO. - Instead of a time for friends, classes and hanging out, for students like Steven Truesdale, this is a time of grief.
"He was such a nice kid and he had a ton of friends," Steven said. "It's just so sudden."
Steven is an eighth grader at Powell Middle School in Littleton. Wednesday night, one of his classmates took his own life and was dead in the playground of Twain Elementary School. That's just one day after a student from nearby Arapahoe High School took his own life at South Glenn Mall. Both students are from Littleton Public Schools.
"His sister goes here," Steven said.
Also on Tuesday, a boy from North Arvada Middle School was found dead by suicide by investigators at Mount View Youth Services Center in Jefferson County.
"I do think many times these come in numbers," Bev Marquez, Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners CEO, said.
Marquez runs the call center which offers help 24 hours-a-day to anyone needing help with issues surrounding suicide. She says the beginning of the school year often sees a spike in student suicides.
"If we ask kids, what are your top three stressors, what you'll hear is that it's social pressure, first, which certainly increases when you enter the school setting," Marquez said.
She said parents must step in and learn to counsel their own kids on a subject that many find difficult to talk about.
"We all prepare to tell our 16-year-old how to be safe when driving. Put on your seat belt, don't text," Marquez said. "More kids are dying by suicide than are by car crashes."
The names of the three boys who died have not been released by the coroner's offices in Arapahoe and Jefferson Counties.
The superintendent of Littleton Public Schools sent a letter home to parents:
August 31, 2017
Dear Littleton Public Schools Parents:
Many of you are aware this has been a sad beginning to the school year. We lost a high school student in a tragic car accident two weeks ago. On Tuesday, a high school student took his own life. And, last night, a middle school student took his own life. Like you, we are grieving with our students, colleagues, and community.
Our hearts are heavy as we continue to support all of our students and their families -- especially those closest to these tragic events. I want to remind you that the safety and well-being of our students and staff continues to be our highest priority. We are a close-knit community and school district, and many families have been and will continue to be impacted. When students come to us in crisis, we immediately engage the student and the family. We do our very best to connect students and families with the community resources they need. We partner closely with external agencies (such as All Health, Littleton Adventist Hospital, Second Wind, Colorado Crisis Services, etc.).
During times of tragedy, it is common for information and misinformation to quickly spread through mainstream and social media while the facts are still being determined. Our goal is to always communicate the facts directly to you as best we can and as soon as it is appropriate for us to do so in partnership with law enforcement and impacted families.
Following any tragedy, we believe school is the best place for our students to be, and we recognize the important role schools play in addressing the mental health and wellness of our students and families. We are also aware that safety and mental health are community-wide issues that need continuous discussion, partnership, and action on a broader scale. It is human nature to feel frustration, anger, and fear and to look for rationale when people in our community are in crisis. Sometimes simple answers cannot be found. This is when it is most important for us to continue to partner with one another as parents, community, and schools to find ways to better address the needs of our families.
As you know, Littleton Public Schools has numerous programs, interventions and highly trained mental health professionals in place to address the needs of our students and staff, and we are always looking for ways to improve. We have many resources on the district’s website that might be helpful to you as you discuss these sensitive issues with your children in age appropriate ways.http://www.littletonpublicschools.net/content/socialemotionalandbehaviorservices.
I also invite you to revisit the information in the 2016 publication, “ Safety, Mental Health and Wellness in Littleton Public Schools”, which outlines the numerous safety, social, emotional, and behavioral services provided to LPS students, staff, and families throughout our school district. This publication, which was mailed to every LPS family last fall, is available on the district website.
I am frequently reminded of the caring, character, and perseverance of the LPS family.LPS is a special place in which to learn, teach, and grow because of this community’s strong partnership with its schools. Please reach out to your school community if you need support, and continue to remind your children of just how much you love them.
The principal of North Arvada Middle School also sent a letter to the school community (the student's name has been redacted):
Dear North Arvada Middle School families,
We are very sad to share with you that one of our students, _____, passed away as a result of an attempt to take his own life. Our hearts are with the student’s family during this very painful time.
At North Arvada, students engage in social emotional learning specifically around empathy. While our young people continue to learn and explore what empathy means, we will support them and nurture appropriate responses during this time.
We do not have any information about a memorial service at this time; however, we will pass it along at the direction of the family.
Children often have questions about death and loss, so you may consider discussing any worries they may have about it. We will have mental health support at the school tomorrow for anyone who may need additional emotional help. If your student is struggling with grief and needs extra support immediately, please contact either the Jefferson Center for Mental Health, 303-425-0300, or the Colorado Crisis Service hotline, 1-844-493-8255.
Again, our deepest condolences go out to the ____ family.
Sohne Van Selus
If you need any help or knows someone who needs help with suicide issues, please call Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners at 844-493-8255. A new text help line has also been set up. You can text the word "TALK" to 38255.
"Suicide's your only option? Just talk to somebody," Steven said.
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