Here is a recent letter that went out to all families of the Acton-Boxborough learning community.
As many of you may already be aware, our district experienced the loss of a second student at the high school over the weekend. Our thoughts are with the two bereaved families as we support them during this difficult time.
When students die by suicide, it understandably raises a range of emotions, concerns, and questions. Over the last five years, we have seen a number of our neighboring districts experience losses like these. We hoped that this letter was one that we would never have to write. But, given the statistics on teenage mental health, the reality is that any school that serves adolescents faces this risk.
Our high school leadership team and teachers have, over the course of the last three years, made mental health and wellness the focus of their professional learning and work with students. As a result, these losses have been especially painful. At the same time, I have been extremely impressed by their commitment to do everything possible to support students during these difficult times through their close collaboration with professionals who are noted in the field of school loss and crisis, including Maria Trozzi of Boston Medical Center’s Good Grief Program, and psychologist Dr. Rob Evans. In the face of both tragedies, our high school has followed the established protocols and recommendations from the Good Grief Program.
Among the steps we are taking, we are in the process of partnering with community agencies to offer in the near future an evening on adolescent mental health. Please watch for additional information on this as soon as plans are solidified. Additionally, as we do every year, we will provide the entire 9th grade with Signs of Suicide Prevention training (SOS) in their Fitness for Living classes. In the next month, our counselors will also be delivering presentations in all grade levels about the signs and symptoms of depression, effective ways of coping with it, what to do if they or someone they know has thoughts of suicide, and how to access appropriate resources. Some people have asked us to hold school-wide assemblies for students, but given the varied ways children cope with loss, these have not proven to be helpful and are not recommended by experts in the field.
We will continue to do everything we can to support our students, but there is no substitute for healthy conversations between families and their children. Here are links to resources that can help you talk with your children: http://abschoolswellness.weebly.com/mental-health-learn-more.html, including a video of Maria Trozzi’s recent parent presentation, When Our Adolescents Face Losses: Words, Strategies and Wisdom that Promote Resilience, and the attached article Helping Students Cope with Tragic Loss by Dr. Rob Evans and Dr. Mark Kline.
We are deeply saddened by these losses to our school community and we remain committed to partnering with you to support the wellbeing of all our students.
Glenn A. Brand, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
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