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Conor Spahr, Publisher
Herriman High school and its surrounding community have a crisis on their hands. The public school has had its seventh student suicide of the 2017-2018 school year, 17-year-old Nicholas Swint.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, authorities say it’s still too early in the probe to know whether the incidents are linked by anything other than location.
Jordan District spokesperson Sandy Riesgraf says that "A specialist with the Utah Medical Examiners Office is currently conducting extensive research on the situation. We are working closely with a statewide coalition to provide all resources needed."
Classmates gathered last week to hang thousands of yellow ribbons around the school, the symbol for suicide awareness. Students walking through the hallways the past several days will have noticed hundreds of sticky notes put on lockers and walls around the school, each with a few short friendly words on it.
This week, balloons were placed on student’s cars, and coupons from local restaurants like Sodalicious and Sonic were handed out with a message reading “You are worth more than gold!”
Almost every student has been affected by the tragedies this school year. Riley, a senior at Herriman, says that “I wake up and realize my friends aren’t here. All I have now are memories, and it’s frustrating that school is only now taking action.” It’s not uncommon to find students angry with the school administrator’s apparent lack of action. “It should’ve been taken care of and talked about before the first suicide, not after the seventh.” says Riley.
Trevor Nelson, a junior at Herriman, says “I appreciate the administration trying to help [with] tee-shirts, post-it notes, and being greeted in the morning, [but that] isn’t going to help anyone in this state of mind.”
Ann-Marie Beck is nervous to send her 9th-grade daughter to Herriman next year. She thinks the school isn’t doing enough given the situation. “Why do schools have twenty football coaches and only five counselors?” she exclaimed. “And those are also academic counselors. Kids need more access to mental health professionals. My daughter has four art classes. Why not a mental health class?”
The school hasn’t been entirely lacking, however. They’ve brought in additionally counseling and a crisis team for days following the suicide. Jordan School District is also allowing (on a limited basis) free counseling sessions for students.
"The administration is doing what they feel is best for the school,” says Joie Jarman, a 12th-grade student at Herriman. “They are following policy, and I believe they are doing what they feel is best for the school.”
Herriman High administration has created a three-page suicide prevention plan that showcases the actions they have taken and plan to take. We have included a link to this document below.
“Suicide has been a serious concern for our Herriman community this year,” says a Herriman school official. “With the loss of our students we understand the community has been saddened, angered, anxious, and confused and we feel the same way. Throughout the school year we've made suicide prevention our top priority by implementing events, programs, and trainings with the overarching message that we care about each of our students and we want to keep them safe.”
Sandy Riesgraf, Jordan District spokesperson, says that "We ask everyone to remember, if you see something, say something. Please report issues of bullying or concerns about someone in crisis."
The National Association of School Psychologists says that “Children and adolescents spend a substantial part of their day in school under the supervision of school personnel. Effective suicide and violence prevention is integrated with supportive mental health services, engages the entire school community, and is imbedded in a positive school climate through student behavioral expectations and a caring and trusting student/adult relationship. Therefore, it is crucial for all school staff members to be familiar with, and watchful for, risk factors and warning signs of suicidal behavior.”
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the rate of youth (ages 10 to 17) dying by suicide in Utah has increased an average of 22.8 percent each year from 2011 to 2015. Nationally, the rate increased an average of 6 percent over the same time period.
It clear that Utah has a serious problem on its hands. What isn't clear is the solution.
Herriman High Parents, students, or staff may call (801) 567-8560 during school hours to schedule an appointment for counseling/crisis intervention services. This will be offered until May 30th, 2018.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.
View three-page suicide prevention document by Herriman Administration at www.goo.gl/dLwtHU.