I returned to the school at 7:45am and I could smell the desperation in the hallways. Each child and adult that I walked past had an empty and lost look on their faces. It was rare to see anyone making eye contact. Still emotionally exhausted from yesterday, I made a promise to myself that I would take a few breaks today to allow myself some time to process. I did not.
I entered the conference room to meet with the staff that would be counseling kids today and sadly there was tension in the room. Everyone was already so worn out that bickering and frustration was high. We collected our data and determined which kids were high risk and which needed priority follow-up.
Individually we met with students. Each child came to us with a look of disbelief. While many of the kids seemed to still be in shock they had a different understanding today than yesterday. Each of the children had the opportunity to go home last night, tell their parents and process this horrible tragedy. Most of the kids reported that they did not sleep last night. In their beds they simply existed in quiet suffering. They were finally starting to understand that their 13 year old friend had committed suicide, that he was dead, that he would not be returning to school, that he was truly dead.
One of the difficulties of dealing with a suicide within a school is the contagion factor. We do not want to glorify suicide or offer any ideas to kids who might already have some suicidal ideation. A suicide epidemic is to be avoided at all costs. We spent a lot of time yesterday and today determining whether any of the kids were having any feelings of suicide prompted by the loss of their friend or for any other reason. Sadly, we found many. Each time I met with a child and learned that they have been contemplating killing themselves I felt as though a boulder had been thrown into my stomach. I felt faint, weak and exerted all of my energy into not crying.
He sat down across the table from me. Tears were dripping from his tan eyelids. He laced his fingers together, shoulders slumped,... he would not meet my eyes. Pain radiated from every inch of him. It felt like a force field was pushing against me. Slowly I asked him questions. Slow seemed to be the only speed I could speak in as I stared at his broken being. He quickly informed me that he was certain that he wants to kill himself. My heart rate reacted as if adrenaline had been injected into every inch of my body. My stomach did not simply turn, but rather it repeatedly did uncomfortable sickening flips.
He continued speaking. He explained that he had previously thoughts about killing himself, but he had been too scared and ultimately decided that suicide was not a good idea. He saw the movie Bully last week with his class and with a very calm tone explained that the movie had brought the idea of suicide back into his mind and that it seemed that the character that killed himself in the movie had accomplished his goal. He had been thinking about killing himself again all of last week. Finally he told me that since he learned yesterday that his classmate had committed suicide he was now certain. He is now certain that he wants to kill himself. His classmates death has confirmed for him that killing himself is by far the best option. His classmate can no longer feel pain and nor should he.
This child sat before me very matter of factually informing me that he is damn positive that suicide is not only the best option, but the one that makes the most sense. He can in fact end ALL of his pain. He explained that since learning of his classmates suicide that he now understands that
suicide is not something to be feared, but something that will allow him to have all that he wants in his life.... peace.
I have no idea what the look on face could have been while I listened to this not even 13 year old child. I felt warmth in my mouth, heat in my arms, legs and torso and burning in my head. My jaw clenched so hard I wasn't sure if I would be able to open my mouth. The quickened pace of my heart is all that ensured me I was alive.