ENOSBURG FALLS — Two senior students at Enosburg Falls High School (EFHS) have decided to tackle the problem of suicide in their school by fostering a dialogue on the subject.
Student leaders Jeanessa St. Pierre and Rebecca Gagne have been involved with the Youth Risk Behavior Survey Committee on Suicide Prevention in the school.
A student group analyzed the data from the most recent findings (the 2013 survey) and concluded that at least one in 10 students at their high school had made a written plan for killing themselves. This is not an alarming difference from other high schools in the state, however.
Though no one has yet put these plans into action, the girls said they knew that the statistic was troubling, and decided to do something about it.
“[The statistic] stood out to us, said Gagne. “We decided to do as much as we could to raise awareness about what was going on and the resources to help those who are suicidal.”
The pair made a presentation regarding their research to an audience at the school’s library last Wednesday. The presentation was short, mainly discussing their progress on spreading awareness, what students can do if a student or friend has thoughts of self-harm, warning signs to watch out for, and preventative measures.
The audience was small, to the disappointment of the presenters, but those
in attendance were vocal with their opinions. The main portion of the evening was the Q&A after the event, which became an animated discussion about the harrowing statistics, the role the community has regarding suicide plans, and what is causing this problem.
“We figured there would be more parents here to know what their kids
did so they could follow-up with their children,” said St. Pierre. “We
also wanted to start a conversation between parents.”
A few weeks before their presentation, the two students went to a ‘U
Matter’ conference at the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee to learn how
different schools were dealing with suicide prevention.
Gagne recently made a presentation of her experiences and research at the Vermont Statehouse during a legislative discussion regarding prevention funding. She says the school recently took this year’s YRBS, but will not be able to review the results until next year, after she graduates.
However, she hopes that EFHS will continue to be aware of depression among students, of suicide as a real threat, and drug use.
The EFHS administration takes the safety of the children under their care
very seriously, said principal Erik Remmers.
“One of the most important things we can have is relationships with every single kid,” said Remmers. “I feel that in this school we do.”
He says that, in addition to three guidance counselors, the school also has Lance Metayer and Bridget Archambault, from Northwestern Counseling & Support Services present on a full-time basis.
In addition, each member of the school’s faculty has been trained to catch potential signs of suicidal thoughts or tendencies among students.
While the large number of students admitting thoughts and plans of suicide is troubling, the root cause, the ‘why,’ is something that currently eludes both the student leadership and the school administration.
“I don’t have an answer, I’ve got to be honest,” said Sandra Brawer, a student assistance professional and the faculty leader of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey Committee.
Remmers added, “That’s a question, not just for us, but for our state, for our
nation. This is an issue, and we recognize it as an issue. It’s not, from my perspective, just suicide prevention. It’s part of a big system, part of all these other issues that we all have to address.”