HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Circumstances 'Eerily Similar' In Two Boys'
Pubdate: Fri, 29 Nov 2002
Source: Kelowna Capital News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002, West Partners Publishing Ltd.
Author: John McDonald
Bookmark: (Youth)


In early October, I broke a story about a young boy from Constable Neil 
Bruce middle school who died by suicide.

He had apparently been suspended from school for smoking pot and on the 
permission of his parents, had been sent home alone where he killed himself.

We will never know what went through his mind that day but it's almost 
certain that he had been having thoughts of suicide long before his suspension.

It may be that his being kicked out of school was the final straw, the 
catalyst that pushed him to finish something he'd been considering for awhile.

Or not. Maybe his suspension had nothing to do with the decision to take 
that final step.

Either way, a 13-year-old is dead and nothing can change that.

I took considerable heat from the school district about our newspaper's 
decision to go ahead with a story about his death.

Apparently staff at the school were stung by what they saw as criticism of 
their decision to suspend the boy.

As well, senior administration insisted my story would encourage copycat 
suicides among other impressionable youth.

Before the story was even written, I was encouraged by them to abandon it 
in the face of an unwritten rule that media do not write stories about 
suicide. (No other local media outlet touched the story.)

I saw the story as being about a flawed policy (sending a distraught kid 
home alone) rather than trying to place blame, but that explanation fell on 
deaf ears.

When the story came out, apparently my name was instant mud among 
administrators and teachers alike.

A second tragedy involving a youth from the Central Okanagan has now 
occurred under eerily similar circumstances.

Facing suspension from his hockey team for smoking pot, 15-year-old Jason 
Ricciutti hung himself in a hotel room while on a road trip.

Similar circumstances, much different reaction.

While the first story slid by relatively unnoticed, this one has gone national.

Why, I don't know. All I do know is that both deaths deserve the same 
attention, the same scrutiny and the same support for the grieving 
relatives and friends left behind.

Death by suicide is the end result of mental illness just like cardiac 
arrest is the end result of heart disease.

The scourge of youth suicide will only be beaten down if we can remove the 
stigma from it, so teens who are in that desperate state of mind will know 
they have somewhere to turn.

I'm not naive enough to think it will stop all teens from taking their own 
lives, but it might be enough to knock it down a few notches from its place 
as the number two killer of youth.
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