Lake Forest HS sets up task force after 3rd death

April 3, 2012 4:54:13 AM PDT
Students returning from spring break Monday held a moment of silence to remember a classmate recently hit and killed by a Metra train. Administrators at Lake Forest High School are providing counselors and support for students and staff.

Edward Schutt, 18, was struck by a Metra train just a few blocks from his home last week. His death was ruled a suicide. He's the third Lake Forest High student to commit suicide this year.

Meetings are scheduled this week to help educate staff and parents about recognizing the signs in someone who might be suicidal.

Some mental health professionals believe that what is happening at Lake Forest High is a suicide cluster.

"Suicide is such a public epidemic," said Dr. Cathy Frank, psychiatrist, Northwestern School of Medicine. "Someone in the United States kills themselves every 16 minutes, which is a staggering, staggering number, and if you're between age of 10 and 24, it's actually the third leading cause of death."

To prevent another suicide, the school and the community as a whole have organized a task force that reaches out to teens before it's too late. Mathias Seiwert, a youth minister at Lake Forest's Christ Church, is a part of that task force. Will Laskero-Teskoski, 15, who killed himself on February 28, was a member of the church.

"One of the things that I've had to counsel myself on and share with other students especially is that it really isn't anyone's fault," Seiwert told ABC7. "If any of us knew that these events were going to happen when they did, we would have run across broken glass barefoot to stop it."

Seiwert says the task force's focus now is on helping the entire community. They were scheduled to be at a gathering that students were encouraged to attend Monday night.

"We can't make their pain go away, but we can sit with them and let them know they're not alone," said Seiwest. "That will be a big aspect of tonight."

Dr. Frank says, cluster of not, the only way to try and prevent teen suicide is to recognize changes in behavior and appearance.

"Kids who were good students are failing, students who were social are withdrawing, kids who were active in sports, clubs in schools are suddenly pulling away, those are big signs," Dr. Frank said.

School officials say they are working with students and parents to start the healing process. They sent out an email to parents which reads in part, "over the past weeks we consulted with clinical experts in the field of mental illness with expertise in suicide...Our staff met with many students either individually or in small classes throughout the school to discuss suicide and the grieving process."