West Virginia Suicide Prevention Council returns to Mercer County
Barri Faucette addresses Mercer County officials during the anti-suicide conference.
June 19, 2012 ·
Suicide remains the second leading cause of death for young adults in West Virginia and Mercer County officials say two students there killed themselves during this past school year.
“When these suicides happened this year I felt totally out of the loop and felt like I needed to be updated,” Carole McClaugherty said.
She supervises the counselors in the Mercer County school system. She says she encouraged all teachers, staff and administrators to attend the workshop.
“We had a suicide at Princeton High School and we had a suicide at Princeton Middle school," she said. "We just feel like that we need to be more up to date and current on these issues with all the changes and cyberspace and those kinds of things."
Counselors, educators and administrators from across the county attended.
Bob Musick is the Chief Executive Officer for the West Virginia Suicide Prevention Council.
“Depression is the number one cause and sometimes bullying obviously lead to depression," Musick said. "We have drugs and alcohol, distressers that these kids face today, parent problems, education problems, drugs though drugs are really still really a major problem with our kids."
The council travels the state to educate leaders about how to deal with things like bullying that might lead to depression and suicide.
Musick says it’s rare to visit a county two years in a row but he felt it was necessary to accept the invitation and return to Mercer County.
“We want to show you ways," he said. "There’s national suicide lifelines kids can call there’s maybe school counselors, parents pastors that we want to educate the group today about the early warning signs of which is the leading cause of suicide.”
"Big question for you guys, is how do you deal with bullying," Barri Faucette asked the crowd of Mercer County leaders.
Faucette,the Project Director for Adolescent Suicide Prevention and Early Intervention, or the ASPEN Project, hosted a portion of the workshop.
“Eighty percent of those who have completed suicide have shown us some kind of sign," she said. "Again just being trained on the warning signs and what to look for can totally save someone’s life.”
The West Virginia legislature passed the Jason Flatt Act earlier this year. The anti-suicide law requires school service personnel to have two hours of suicide prevention training annually.
Faucette says education is the key, and believes the new law is a step in the right direction.
“It’s everybody’s responsibility,” Faucette said. “It can’t be solely on educators. It can’t be solely on parents so I think it’s people being educated and knowing what to do. If you identify a kid at risk then where do you send them what do you do for them in order to make sure they are appropriately get the care they need."
Buckhannon-Upshur High School in Upshur County also suffered a loss when student Eston William Nelson II committed suicide in November.
His father, Bill Nelson, says his son was bullied. Nelson criticized the new state law at a Board of Education meeting last week. Reports indicate he doesn’t believe training is enough and wants to see tougher discipline for bullies.
Current state code calls for up to a 10-day suspension at a level two infraction.
Barri Faucette says kids seem to react more to consequences.
“I’ve done some focus groups with kids and they know what motivates them," she said, "and we’ve talked a lot about the way that they feel, would you feel bad about hurting someone else or driving someone to feel like they need to take their own life because teasing etc."
"That wasn’t very impressionable but when you talk about consequences this is what’s going to happen to you as a direct action of what you’ve done then they are very motivated and aware of the consequences of what not to do.”
As part of another statewide initiative, counties are required to update their bullying policy. In April, Mercer County board officials said the county is transitioning to focus on classroom expectations rather than punishment.