Ohio school district sees six teen suicides in six months

MASSILLON, Ohio - Late last week, Hayden Porter, a 15-year-old freshman at a high school in Ohio, took his life. He was the sixth current or former teenage student from the school district to kill themselves within the past six months.

Three of the suicides occurred in a span of 11 days in January.

Police say the suicides don't look like they are linked, and the methods the children used were varied.

Chief Michael Pomesky said over the past five days, his officers have responded to more than two dozen calls concerning potential suicides or requests for police to check on someone. He said the community of Perry Township, about an hour's drive south of Cleveland, is in crisis.

"We pretty much went from no suicides to this," he said.

Porter's mother, Ashley Jones, told WJW she thinks her son was bullied. Her son, worried about what four boys might do to him, had to be picked up from school one day, she told the Cleveland station.

But she had no idea her son would kill himself.

"Please tell somebody because he didn't tell us. He didn't speak. Maybe he was scared, I don't know, but if something is going on, don't be afraid to speak up," Jones told WJW.

Hayden's father, Shaun Porter, told WEWS that Hayden had told him he was fine.

"Got off the bus, we talked for 30 to 45 minutes. I never thought he would've done that that day," Shaun Porter said.

The teens who have taken their own lives were 14 to 18 years old, Pomesky said.

He said about bullying: "We're aware that that is a factor in some suicides, but we have not identified that, as an agency, in these cases."

The chief implored parents to be involved.

"The most important part of this is that parents need to have conversations with their kids," he said.

Almost one in five teenagers between 15 and 19 has considered suicide, and nearly 10% have attempted it, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among Americans between 10 and 24, suicide was the second-leading cause of death in 2015.

Some proven strategies for preventing suicide among youth include "strengthening access to and delivery of suicide care, creating protective environments, promoting youth connectedness, teaching coping and problem-solving skills, and identifying and supporting at-risk youth," Melissa C. Mercado, a behavioral scientist in the CDC's division of violence prevention, said in November.

"Suicide is a public health problem that has far-reaching consequences," she said. "Suicide impacts friends, family members, co-workers, communities and society."

Officials at a Friday news conference in Ohio said the 1,700 students at the high school, which is in Massillon, will be provided with an increasing number of resources.

"Know that our district will continue to work, we will not give up," Perry Local Schools Superintendent Scott Beatty said.

The six students included four high schoolers, a middle schooler and a Perry High graduate who lived in another town.

The school district, in a statement, requested members of the community help its students.

"We ask parents, residents, local organizations and everyone in the community to wrap around these young people to provide support for those who are grieving and support for those that are dealing with difficult situations."

The district website includes a link to a help flyer that says: "You are not alone. There is help available."

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1 Comment

  • Michael Pyne

    Please, I am now imploring Fox 17 to find and review the Center For Disease Control’s guidelines for broadcasting these stories. It is not my suggestion that you should not post such stories, but rather follow the CDC’s research backed guidelines. These guidelines ask that broadcasters provide resources as a part of a broadcast about suicide. Resources like the National Suicide Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or the texting lifeline at 741-741. If you can provide warning signs to look for in a person who might be suicidal that would likely save even more lives. This takes just a few seconds and it is PROVEN TO SAVE LIVES. Fox 17 should understand that when these stories are broadcast without resources you are likely to cause more suicides. This story is tragic and scary. You are statically adding to the tragedy and fear.

    In our suicide prevention efforts we DO NOT look at Fox 17 as a community partner that cares to help. We have sent information to you about your lack of recognition of what would constitute “safe broadcasting”. We have sent the CDC recommended guidelines to you and politely informed you of the data and research. You continue to ignore. We have gently attempted to invite you into a partnership toward saving young people and we have repeatedly shared the research and suggestions from the CDC with you. Suicide is now the number 1 cause of death for 10-14 year olds tied with accidents (CDC, November 2016). It is the leading cause of death for 14-26 year olds. We are seeing rates rising each year. Here in West Michigan the efforts to reverse these trends has wide spread support and the work continues. Other broadcasters have been responsive as well as responsible. Fox 17 is literally a concern to these efforts. Again, we are not saying that you should not broadcast nor are we saying that you don’t have the right to broadcast as you see fit. What we are saying is that research shows that your approach to broadcasting about youth suicides are irresponsible and can lead to an increase in these deaths. I am certain that the good people who are in the employ of Fox 17 do not wish to see a young person die. So please consider reviewing your approach to broadcasting about suicide.

    Anyone who may be reading this and struggling with thoughts of suicide please please reach out. Call 800-273-8255 and speak to someone. Veterans can speak to veterans by calling that same number. Young people might be more comfortable texting 741-741. This is the national hotline but the numbers are answered in our region by people who want to help.

    Thank you,

    Michael Pyne
    Muskegon County Suicide Prevention Coalition
    Michigan Regional Youth Suicide Prevention Alliance