Recent student suicides serve as reminder that mental health help available at schools

- Crisis teams were at several Prince William County high schools after four students died over the weekend.

Police announced 15-year-old Christopher Owens, a freshman student at Brentsville District High School, took his own life after he went missing with the family's ATV over the weekend.

Now, school administrators are working around the clock to provide students and parents with resources and help.

But Owens wasn’t the only Prince William County student who died over the past week. Indya Davis and Lyle Ferringer, both 17 years old, and another 17-year-old student also passed away.

Three of those deaths are suspected suicides.

Lauren Anderson of the Josh Anderson Foundation told us there are so red flags people can look for.

“When they're showing signs of acting differently -- these can be a number of things from either sleeping too much or not sleeping at all, starting to miss school, anything out of the normal behavior, not taking part in activities that they used to be doing,” she said.

Anderson created the foundation to help embattled students across northern Virginia. Her brother, Josh, took his own life in 2009.

“I think adolescents and high school students, they have an added layer that puts them at risk in that they tend to partake in risky behavior,” said Anderson. “They're impulsive, so the prefrontal cortex of the brain is not fully developed.”

She said that part of the brain is responsible for rational thinking and understanding long-term consequences.

“With any young lady who is in high school, especially their last year, there's the challenge of making the grade, the homework and trying to balance that with their part-time jobs and things of that sort,” said Davis’ mother, Lisa. “And also working with their peers and knowing that in a year, they were going to be moving on to another level in their life, so those can be stressors.”

Even so, Lisa Davis said there were few warning signs, if any.

“She loved the outdoors, liked to hunt,” she said. “She was just a very interesting young lady, but she was vibrant.”

“Every school has a mental health professional and a lot of teens and kids don't know that and parents don't know that,” Anderson told us. “So there is someone in the school building that can help with these issues if you have a concern with your child or if you are a teen and you have a concern with a friend.”

A Prince William County Public Schools spokesperson said counselors don’t want these suicides to become the only focus. But they have provided resources on campus and online for those who need it.

The school district said it has no reason to believe any of these cases are related.

Anderson said one in every four people suffers from a mental illness. She said every school should have a mental health professional in the building.

The Josh Anderson Foundation is holding its annual fundraiser next Thursday to raise money for resources to prevent teen suicide.

The Joshua Ball will be held on Thursday, Nov. 5 from 7 to 10 p.m. at Top of the Town in Arlington. Tickets for the event are $100.

Family and friends can pay their respects to Christopher Owens from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Battlefield Baptist Church in Warrenton. The memorial service will be held at the church on Friday at 11 a.m.

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