Parents Urged To Act In Light Of Student Suicide Pact

Friday, December 19th 2008, 6:25 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK - Tulsa Public Schools is working to address a suicide pact among some middle school students.  A 13 year old who took his own life earlier this week will be laid to rest on Saturday.  Tulsa Police believe the Edison Middle School student made a suicide pact with two or three other boys. Tulsa Public Schools is working to make sure the risk of suicide doesn't spread.

A series of suicides has the Edison community reeling.

"This especially has just sent shock waves through the community," said Edison Principal Stacey Vernon.

Principal Stacey Vernon says there have been three suicides at Edison this year.

Tulsa Police say they've found one student who may have been a part of the pact and they have gotten him help, but they're still looking for the others.    

The trio of suicides is eerily familiar to a situation that happened in Jenks more than 10 years ago.

Three girls, ranging in age from 8th to 11th grade, committed suicide back in 1997.  Jenks officials didn't suspect a suicide pact then, but there was concern that there could be more victims.

Mental health experts say teens are susceptible to a phenomenon called suicide contagion.  Basically it means exposure to suicide can actually increase the risk of more suicide.

"That is one of our big concerns is that there may be students that are trying to emulate or that there are students who are like look at the attention this is getting," said Edison Principal Stacey Vernon.

"We don't want to make it a sensational item at all, because unfortunately that can feed into a frenzy of suicides and we don't want that at all," said TPS Director of School Counseling Teena Whitsel.

After the 1997 suicides, Jenks formed a suicide intervention program and a community wide taskforce.  And, that's the type of response TPS is calling for.

"The old adage that it takes a village that absolutely applies here. Parents can't do it alone. Students can't do it for other students alone. And, schools can't do it alone. It takes everybody," said Edison Principal Stacey Vernon.

Edison is offering free mental health screenings on Monday, open to any parent concerned about a child.

"So I would just encourage parents to keep a close eye on their students. And there's no shame in taking advantage of those services, if it saves a life," said Edison Principal Stacey Vernon.

School leaders and counselors alike say now is the time to talk to your teenager.

Related Story:

12/18/2008  TPS Investigates Possible Suicide Pact