Fort Lauderdale High School is in mourning after the death of one of its students.
According to Fort Lauderdale Police and Broward County Public Schools, a senior died by suicide when he jumped from the third floor at about 10 am Thursday.
“Our entire school community is feeling the pain of this and we send our condolences to the family as well,” said Dr. Vickie Cartwright, the superintendent. “And we have a crisis team on site to help our children and to help our staff process through this horrific event.”
Dr. Daniel Shapiro is the school district’s director of school counseling.
“Right now, the top priority is seeing who needs immediate help and it’s identifying those students who are affected by it in any way,” Shapiro said. “And there’s circles of impact, there may be those that saw it, there may be those that know someone well, and we want to identify all those students, we want to reach out to them, we want to get them the appropriate support. And I really want to emphasize, it’s not just the immediate support, the immediate support is the beginning, then it’s supporting them all the way through this process of recovery and healing.”
The boy was rushed to the hospital, where he was declared dead.
“The individual had taken his own life in an act of suicide, and had left messaging prior to doing that,” explained Steven Golan of Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue.
Whenever someone dies by suicide, everyone wonders what could’ve been done to prevent it. In this case, we don’t know if the student had been treated or counseled professionally.
“Our district also does something called youth mental health first aid, where we’re trying to get as many people trained to be able to see these signs and connect anyone who’s in distress with the proper mental health support,” Shapiro said.
What are the signs?
“Seeing somebody who’s not acting as they usually do, seeing someone who’s visibly upset, seeing changes in behavior, speaking about hurting one’s self,” Shapiro explained. “Looking for those types of signs of emotional distress, something that they’re writing, something that they’re saying, anything that says something is not OK with someone.”
I asked Shapiro how important he thinks it is to erase the stigma of seeking help for a mental health issue.
“That is, it’s absolutely critical, it’s very difficult for students, very difficult for human beings to navigate all the challenges,” Shapiro said. “We need to create a community that knows it’s OK to reach out for help.”
As Superintendent Cartwright put it, if your child breaks an arm, you take her to a doctor, and it should be the same with symptoms of depression and anxiety, seek professional help. Counseling is available at every public school in Broward and in Miami-Dade County Public Schools as well.
Dr. Shapiro says it’s important to monitor your child’s social media posts for signs of trouble, and if there’s a crisis, help is available 24 hours a day on the National Suicide Prevention hotline by dialing 988.
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘Home’ to 741741, anytime.