Clay County coping with 2nd teen suicide this month

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - The Clay County community is grieving the loss of a 15-year-old student after he committed suicide Tuesday evening.

It is the second teenage suicide the county has dealt with this month.

The school district said it has grief counselors on hand for students and teachers for as long as they need them.

Superintendent Charlie Van Zant said Clay County is relatively small and seemingly everyone knows everyone. He said because of that, this latest tragedy is more difficult because so many people know the teenager and his family. But he also thinks that will help the family as they try to come to grips with their loss.

"Anytime something like this happens, we just want to support the family and the students that knew our student," Van Zant said.

Lyle Bandy, the director of student services, said district's crisis intervention team is always ready to respond if needed.

"It's not just students. Teachers take these things very hard as well," he said. "So you have conversations based on how we gauged the students on that morning. If the principal feels we need the crisis team, we're more than happy to respond."

Alarming statistics from the Jason Foundation, a suicide prevention organization, show suicide among teens is way too common.

  • It's the second-leading cause of death for those age 10 to 24.
  • Each day in the U.S. there are an average of 5,400 suicide attempts by young people grades seven through 12.
  • Four out of five teens who attempt suicide showed clear warning signs.

Bandy said parents should always look for those warning signs.

  • Take note if your child's demeanor changes or if they start hanging out with a different group of friends.
  • Something could be wrong if your student's typically good grades begin to go downhill, or if they start looking for excuses to stay home from school.
  • Most importantly, parents should always have a relationship with their child's teachers.

"Teachers are in tune of what kids are experiencing on a regular basis, and sometimes students are more comfortable talking to their teachers than their parents," Bandy said.

Senior Blake Richardson said it's been hard on students, but they're leaning on each other.

"I guess try and stick together and try to be there for each other so they can get past it," he said.

A new program starting next year will place incoming freshman in Clay County with a group of about 150 students in their school. That group will be assigned a specific guidance counselor, assistant principal and teachers so the students can build close relationships with eight to 10 key adults at school.

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