Suicide attempts plague IRHS - Tucson Local Media: Import

Suicide attempts plague IRHS

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Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2005 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:49 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

May 4, 2005 - Three Ironwood Ridge High School students tried to kill themselves in February and March following the double suicide of Jake Hrasok and Matt Ramsey on Feb. 3, according to Oro Valley Police Department reports.

School officials say the cases are not linked.

The first attempted suicide occurred three days after the suicides of the 17- and 14-year-old Ironwood Ridge students, who were found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning near Overton and Magee roads.

Ironwood Ridge Principal Sam McClung said it was more than likely a cry for help, not a wish to die, that prompted the actions of the students. He said he sees no relation to the February suicides.

"They are all independent acts," McClung said.

He pointed to national statistics that suicide rates among teenagers are high and said that to have two or three suicides attempts over a few years is not a high number. He said he would estimate that those numbers "aren't even close to the real number."

He added that the amount of students who attempt suicide off-campus are not included in the reports.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15 through 24, according to the American Psychiatric Association Web site.

According to a handout distributed by administrators at Ironwood Ridge, about 10 suicides occur for every 100,000 youth nationally, each year, and there are about 11 youth suicides a day.

School Nurse Terry Clark said that statistically there could be hundreds of students on the campus suffering from mental health issues, which ultimately could lead to suicide attempts if not treated and monitored.

In the first reported suicide attempt, Feb. 7, the school nurse was contacted about a student who had taken 25 Prozac and 25 Remeron pills, both antidepressants, the previous night. The police report states the student had been depressed about several things, including the recent suicide of a friend from Ironwood Ridge.

Police will not release the names of any students involved.

It was also reported that two or three weeks earlier, the same student attempted suicide while he was in Oklahoma by overdosing on Tylenol. He was treated and given Prozac for depression and Remeron to help him sleep.

Oro Valley Police Department School Resource Officer Herb Williams reported the student had visible signs of self-mutilation on his arms. This was later confirmed to be from a razor blade.

In a separate incident, three days later, a female student attempted to take her life while at school.

In this case, the student left a note in her gym shoes and told a friend to read it as soon as possible. According to police reports, the note stated that she had not been happy for about a year and that "I'm not sure where I'm going but I have about 250-300 pills in my backpack and I'm taking every one hoping that, well, that I don't wake up after I take them all."

No one knew where the student went and officers were alerted. Students who were friends of the girl were contacted, as was her mother, and more than eight patrol officers searched for the teen, performing at least three sweeps of the campus, according to reports.

A Department of Public Safety helicopter also took up the search, scanning the desert for the girl.

The student was found on a bridge near Ironwood Ridge's south gym about an hour later. She told the officer she had taken 200 or more pills of ibuprofen and Tylenol.

The student said that as she crouched in the desert she could see the people searching for her in the area surrounding the school. She covered herself with a blanket, lay down and figured that if she woke up then God did not wish for her to die yet, according to police reports.

When Rural/

Metro Fire Depart-

ment officials arrived, the student reportedly told the officers she had taken Ibuprofen, Tylenol, prenatal vitamins and a multivitamin. She then stated that she no longer wanted to hurt herself.

A 200-count bottle of Motrin was found in the desert. Two pills were left in the bottle.

In the student's diary, an entry from Jan. 24, according to police reports, stated, "I've been wanting to not live lately. But I don't want to commit suicide." The reason she gave was not wanting to hurt her family and being ashamed.

The entry continues, "I find myself obsessing over ways I could die that would look 'accidental' like when I'm in a car I realized how much I hope someone will hit my side and I'll die on the spot."

In another entry she writes, "Everyone around me seems so happy, I remember being that happy."

The entry from the day of the suicide attempt stated how many pills she took and a list of nine items she wanted to have at her funeral.

On March 2, Clark was contacted regarding a 15-year-old student who was overdosing on pills, according to police reports. Clark found the student impaired, and found an empty bottle of acetaminophen, which initially contained 120 pills, along with an empty bottle of Temazepam, 15 milligram, a pill used to treat insomnia.

The police report states a teacher got information the night before that the student was upset because another female was dating a male at the school, and that if they didn't break up she would hurt herself. When the teacher contacted the student, she said she was fine and her mood seemed to render no cause for alarm, according to reports.

The teacher did report the incident to the school the next day.

In the student's backpack, officers found a bottle aspirin, 500 milligram, and a composition book. An entry dated March 2 stated, "This is my last entry. I am going to kill myself. Don't worry, I'll find peace."

Both Clark and McClung said there is no suicide problem at Ironwood Ridge, and the doors of communication are open regarding the issue but the school officials can only do so much.

Not all cases of suicidal attempts are carried through, in two cases students at the school spoke about hurting themselves.

Feb. 17, a student, apparently upset with the recent breakup with his girlfriend, alerted officials that he may hurt himself by talking too many sleeping pills. A phone call to his mother told officials that the student had attempted to hurt himself in the past, according to police reports.

The student was transported for evaluation.

In another case, March 24, officers responded to the school for a suicidal student. The mother of the student told officers her son wanted to hurt himself and needed to be transported to Palo Verde Hospital, he had been threatening to kill himself for quite some time, according to police reports. Two open wounds were on the boy's left forearm, said to be "scratch wounds from last time." The student was transported to Palo Verde Hospital.

It is imperative the school become aware of any changes in mental health regarding a student, and of any medication the student may be taking, Clark said, adding that parents decide whether that information is released to the school.

"We rely on the information that the parents provide to us," Clark said.

Parents know their children better than any school official, she said. If parents feel like there may be a problem, they should get their child evaluated by a mental health professional.

And the school can be there for support and guidance in dealing with the student, she said.

"Our goal is to help any students we feel needs help," she said.

Clark did admit the campus has been affected by the suicides in February, with each student feeling the pain a bit differently.

After the suicides, extra counselors were made available, but, after two days, they were "deemed not necessary," McClung said.

While a suicide prevention presentation was held March 7, providing information on warning signs, resources for prevention and information parents should know, McClung said it is the job of the school to remain a place to learn and to provide a sense of normalcy.

Everyone deals with death in different ways, he said, adding that often it can bring up negative feelings from years past.

"Many people react, but they react given their different situation," McClung said. "Suicide seems to cut a little deeper."

Both would not comment on if the students who attempted suicide knew the boys who killed themselves. Clark did say the school needs to have open eyes for any suicidal signs in behavior.

"Sometimes the outward appearance doesn't meet the inward," Clark said.

In each case of attempted suicide on the Ironwood Ridge campus, the students were transported to Northwest Medical Center for evaluation and treatment.

In each case regarding overdoses, patients are treated differently, depending on numerous factors, including the size of the patient, what was taken, and the patient's medical history, said Katie Gleason, director of the emergency department at Northwest Medical Center.

With the many suicide attempts seen and treated within the hospital emergency room, Gleason agrees with Clark that often they are a cry for help.

In any instance of attempted suicide or overdose, Gleason said it is imperative to seek treatment immediately and to call 911.

"They are trained to deal with this," she said.

Often, in the case of pill overdose, charcoal is used to eliminate the contents from the body, by making the patient vomit and defecate.

"Trying to get the substance out of the body in the quickest way possible," Gleason said, adding that stomach pumping is a bit of a misnomer and an "old wives tale."

In all cases of pill overdose, it is important to bring the bottle or an example of what the patient ingested, Gleason said. It facilitates the treatment process.

Northwest Medical Center does not have a psychiatric facility, but patients are referred to Sonora Behavioral Health, 6050 N. Corona Road.

McClung and Clark would not say if any of the students had returned to school or if they were seeking treatment, nor would they comment on their current condition.

The three cases of attempted suicide at Ironwood Ridge and the two suicides in February are the only ones reported for the school. Canyon Del Oro High School had only three suicide attempts between January 2000 and March 28, 2005, according to reports obtained by the Oro Valley Police Department.

Besides the suicide prevention presentation in early March, no other extra programs have been added to the curriculum pertaining to suicide prevention, and no extra counselors are on campus, McClung said.

Of the many students on campus questioned about the recent suicide attempts, many did not want to comment. McClung said no student had been told to not comment to the media.

In regard to the current mental state of students on campus, repeated phone calls over two months by the EXPLORER to Steve Duley, head of the Amphitheater Public Schools' psychology department, were not returned.

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