Recent suicides of 2 Montgomery County students spark discussion of suicide prevention awareness

Students are mourning the death of a classmate at two different high schools in Bethesda. The tragedies have parents and teachers looking for ways to talk to kids about suicide.

This is an incredibly delicate subject and has hit close to home for Montgomery County Public Schools. In less than a week, a student from Walter Johnson High School and another student at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda have committed suicide.

The principal of each schools have sent out a letter to parents explaining what took place while counselors have been on hand to talk to students.

In the wake of these two recent tragedies, students at these high schools have started several petitions asking for more mental health resources and suicide awareness at their schools. The petitions collectively have garnered more than 4,000 signatures.

Some wonder if suicide has been glorified by pop culture and entertainment. A controversy that gained mainstream traction was the release of the Netflix fictional series "13 Reasons Why," which chronicles students at a high school trying to figure out why their classmate committed suicide.

On the radio, a song by rapper Logic is getting a lot of airplay with song titled, "1-800-273-8255." The song title is the actual phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Some of the lyrics of the song are allegedly said to reflect someone calling the suicide hotline. However, the song eventually takes a more positive tone for a positive outcome.

Lauren Anderson, the executive director of the Josh Anderson Foundation, started her non-profit organization after her brother took his life. The organization now works closely with Fairfax County Public Schools to make sure students have the appropriate resources.

"The national average is about 30 percent of students are saying that they are having feelings of depression, so know that teens aren't alone in this," said Anderson. "I think that is one thing I always hear from teens - no one else is like this, I'm the only one - and so that feeling of being isolated in this issue alone is often what drives further isolation and not seeking help. We seek help when we have a broken leg or have diabetes. You manage it. And just like these illnesses that affect parts of the body, depression and other mental health disorders affects our brain, which has lots of widespread symptoms, and that is really how we should look at it in treating an organ of the body and feeling okay to talk about it."

Now, experts say some of the main signs to look for are a drastic change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. Experts say that is of the sharpest concern if the behavior is related to a painful event, loss or a change.


Mental Health and Crisis Support - Montgomery County Public Schools

Josh Anderson Foundation

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

BTheOne Public Awareness Campaign - Montgomery County