Walter Johnson High School grieves student's death by suicide

At Walter Johnson High School, sadness fell on the return to classes after winter break. Students and staff on Monday shared their grief over the suicide of 15-year-old Noah Marks.

He died on New Year's Day.

Crisis counselors at the school helped them cope with the loss.

"One of my teachers actually cried about it," said student Armeen Noorshahi.

Noah was by all means, a successful student. He was on the honor roll, part of the drama club STAGE, a champion speaker on the Walter Johnson Forensics Team and was known for his morning announcements.

Classmates shared their grief on Twitter using the hashtag #RIPNoah and some donned his signature bow tie.

"It started as a trend because people realized that Noah always loved wearing bow ties to school, so people did it to honor him," explained Noorshahi who wore his bow tie.

His death has turned the focus to suicide prevention. It is the third-leading cause of death among teens. Many classmates are at a loss for answers.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention points out suicide is a complex issue and 90 percent involve mental illness.

"Underlying the smile and all that can be warning signs that we can look for in our family, friends and loved ones," said Ryan Newcomb, an area director for the organization.

Noah's parents asked people to donate to the group in his memory.

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for those between the ages of 10 to 19, but it is preventable.

"Suicide is not an option. It's not. There's treatment just like there would be for any other kind of medical condition ... There's help. There's hope," said Newcomb.

He says don't be afraid to ask someone if they are thinking about suicide. It is better to upset someone than lose them.

"It's important to ask, 'Do you have a plan?'" he said. "A majority of people who die by suicide has told someone in their lives."

Some of the warnings include a change in behavior such as rage or withdrawing, problems sleeping, feeling hopeless, increased use of alcohol or drugs and mood swings. Experts say it is not usually one event that leads to suicide, but a variety of issues that build up over time.

At Walter Johnson, the school's website includes links about suicide prevention and a note: "The Walter Johnson High School community deeply mourns the loss of one of our students. In the coming days and weeks, our community will come together with strength and compassion in order to help everyone heal from this tragic loss."

Outside the school, flags flew at half-staff, remembering Noah and that his life mattered.

Links for suicide prevention:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
1-800-273-TALK (8255)
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
www.afsp.org

National Association of School Psychologists

Preventing Youth Suicide - Tips for Parents and Educators
http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/suicideprevention.aspx

Talking About Suicide - A Toolkit for Schools:
http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/uploadedFiles/schools/secondary%281%29/news/Talking%20About%20Suicide.pdf

Coping with Loss:
http://www.save.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewPage&page_id=EB883CA2-7E90-9BD4-C5E35440BC7761EE

Other links on suicide from Walter Johnson High School:
http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schools/wjhs/news/news.aspx?id=405304

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