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Mental health expert: Be aware of potential suicides

Cary Ashby • Jan 14, 2020 at 2:00 PM

In light of the recent suicide of Western Reserve High School freshman Ethan DeChant, a mental health expert is recommending everyone be aware of someone who may be suicidal.

“If they know someone who is struggling or if they are struggling, obviously reach out to a trusted adult — whether that is a parent, a close family friend, a school counselor, a teacher — anyone that they know and trust,” said Kristen Cardone, executive director of the Huron County Mental Health and Addiction Services.

The trusted individuals also have a responsibility to take action.

“If someone is suicidal or they believe they are at risk, contact law enforcement,” Cardone said. “If it is in person, stay there with the person. Make sure they are safe until someone gets there. If it’s over the phone, try to stay in contact with them, keep them on the phone. If it’s texting, call them and then have someone else call law enforcement while you keep that person on the phone to make sure they’re OK.”

Nearly 10 counselors from Western, Family Life Counseling and area schools, the Western school psychologist and Pastor Richard Forman from Norwalk Baptist Church were at the school Monday in response to DeChant’s death.

Superintendent Rodge Wilson said teachers, coaches and advisers who are most familiar with the grieving students were in the room, partnered with the counselors to make the students more comfortable. He added that the Western staff decided it was a good option after the mid-November suicide of junior Damian G. Henning in Toledo. The 17-year-old boy lived in Norwalk.

“It is too early to evaluate that,” Wilson said, referring to the effectiveness of the pairings. 

By the time Western staff members finished a staff meeting on the DeChant situation about 7:15 a.m., students already were speaking with counselors, he said.  

The district, on social media, announced “with great sadness” that DeChant had died Friday evening.

“The Rider community extends its deepest sympathies to Ethan's family and friends,” according to the announcement. “If you have any questions or concerns about your child, you are urged to contact building administration or school counseling departments via phone or email.”

For students who weren’t comfortable speaking to a grief counselor Monday, Western “is looking at all the options,” including specialists and two suicide coalitions based out of Norwalk, Wilson said.

Cardone shared several hotline numbers for someone who may be struggling with suicide.

“We have our crisis hotline for Huron County. The number is 1-800-826-1306. There is a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the number is 1-800-273-TALK, which is 8255 or the Crisis Text Line. If you text ‘help’ to 741741, there are licensed counselors available 24-7,” she said.

Cardone said it’s important to be direct with someone if it’s believed he or she may be considering suicide — even if it’s an awkward thing to ask.

“Directly say, ‘Are you thinking of killing yourself?,’ which is a hard question to ask, even sometimes for clinicians. It’s getting to the point,” she added.

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