Grosse Pointe schools respond to 2 suicides, Officials book depression expert — (Detroit Free Press)

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Detroit Free Press

March 1, 2006

As family and friends prepare to say good-bye Saturday to a 12-year-old Grosse Pointe Farms boy who shot himself Feb. 12, parents are asking whether it could happen to their own children — and school officials are trying to provide answers.

The worry in this tight-knit community was compounded when a 15-year-old boy shot himself to death within days of the 12-year-old’s suicide. At least three other recent attempted suicides across the five Grosse Pointes also have heightened concerns. The district’s schools have also provided counselors.

The acts prompted Grosse Pointe schools officials to schedule a meeting for Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Grosse Pointe South High School auditorium to discuss childhood trauma and suicide. William Steele, director of the National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children, will discuss what parents need to know about depression and suicide in adolescents.

“We are hearing from parents,” said school Superintendent Dr. Suzanne Klein. “This meeting is being held out of concern for them and also out of concern for our staff. … People are concerned about their own children. And people are asking, ‘How can I make sure this doesn’t happen to someone I love?’ “

Experts say getting information out about teen suicides is crucial to prevention. As many as 90% of the teenagers who take their own lives tell someone of their intentions beforehand.

“The young people themselves are the greatest potential savers of lives,” said Rabbi Daniel Syme of Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Township, who has been talking to families about suicide for years. “If their friend intimates to them that they’re going to attempt suicide … then is not the time for them to be amateur psychologists. Then is the time for them to speak to someone to find someone who will get this child help.”

The Grosse Pointe incidents have parents, counselors and others talking about societal pressures inside and outside school.

“The deaths are unrelated, so we don’t think there’s anything here” in regard to a trend, said Jim Fox, acting director of the Grosse Pointe Department of Public Safety.

The 12-year-old, a sixth-grader at Brownell Middle School, had been taking the drug Prozac, a prescription medicine used to treat depression, before he died, according to a police report filed with the Grosse Pointe Farms Department of Public Safety.

The week before his death, the report said, his parents sought medical treatment for him because the boy had expressed suicidal thoughts, the report said.

According to the report, the boy shot himself in the head with a .22-caliber rifle. His father found the boy in his bed, still breathing, about 9:45 p.m., not long after the man and his wife returned from Bible study. The boy’s older brother was at home and in the basement at the time, but did not hear the shot.

The Grosse Pointe Department of Public Safety refused to release any information about the self-inflicted gunshot wound of the 15-year-old, a freshman at Grosse Pointe South.

This report was edited by Deputy Metro Editor Kathy O’Gorman. She can be reached at kogorman@freepress.com or 248-351-3696.