One Carson High student presented her senior project on suicide awareness for teenagers during Tuesday’s Carson City School Board meeting.
Scarlett Baeza created Drop Dead Day at the high school to show students, teachers and staff how a community is affected by teen suicide. She chose 25 students, all who represented different factions of the school, who every 12 minutes would leave class. This represented the one person who dies from suicide every 12 minutes. After students left, their teacher read an obituary on the students to the class.
“It just felt important to target the students who have never been in that moment where they wanted to take their own life,” Baeza said. “It was intense.”
School Board member Ron Swirczek attended the Drop Dead Day and said the message was powerful for the students as well as himself.
“I observed the students leave the room and I talked to some of them about their obituaries and they said that some of them cried while writing it, their parents cried, I even cried,” Swirczek said. “There were even students in the classes that cried when the teachers read the obituaries, even though they knew their classmate was OK.”
Baeza put nearly 800 hours into her project, interviewing students, organizing the event and filming a video on teen suicide prevention.
“I decided to do a project to give back to a wonderful community that gave me so much,” Baeza said. “This topic is close to my heart and I think it will help me in my career as a teacher or psychologist.”
The School Board heard from Ann Wiswell, Carson City School District risk manager, who introduced a new policy and regulation for how the schools handle a suicide before and after the act.
“It is an issue the district must work on to address this,” Wiswell said. “Aside from the obvious trauma for the school, students, and community we need to talk about the risk management consideration to add intervention, prevention and postvention.”
Both the regulation and policy will focus on creating guidelines for the schools to follow in relation to student suicide. The goal of the policy is to acknowledge guiding policies as schools have the responsibility to help prevent suicide and creating a safe space for students, Wiswell said.
“We want to establish a procedure, action plan and education in response to suicide,” Wiswell said.
The regulation will be looking at intervention, prevention and postvention. Prevention will be to implement policy and educate staff; professional development for staff and ongoing training in risk factors, warning signs; and create youth suicide prevention programs for more peer to peer contact.
Intervention will include the schools screening and referring identified students at risk and refer them to the appropriate resources. Postvention will focus on actions taken at school with a suicide death and create guidelines to develop that plan that’s appropriate for students.
Most of the board and public comments advocated for the increased suicide prevention, citing a number of incidents at Carson High where students have both attempted or committed suicide.
“It happens more often than we realize,” said Carson High Chief Nurse Shelia Story.