Student Well-Being Series

Teen Suicide

A Rising Epidemic

This two-part special report focuses on the causes of youth suicide and the possible solutions. It involved more than 100 in-depth interviews with the families of victims, survivors of suicide attempts, educators, mental-health-policy experts, psychiatrists, epidemiologists, government researchers, and law- enforcement officials.

Student Well-Being Prevention: Los Angeles Reaches Out To Students With Systemwide Approach
With the help of a district-run mental-health clinic, a city teeming with psychological clinics, and a $14 million annual investment from the district’s budget in mental-health services, the number of suicides in the district dropped from 35 in 1989 to 19 in 1997.
Jessica Portner, April 19, 2000
7 min read
Student Well-Being Nurturing Atmosphere: One School Strives To Be Kinder, Gentler
Squinting into the lunch-hour sunshine, Jackie Garcia scans the vast, blacktop playground for signs of altercations. Spotting a scuffle between a pair of 2nd graders playing kickball, Jackie, 11, bounds toward them, her bright-orange slicker, emblazoned with the title "Conflict Manager," flapping as she runs.
Jessica Portner, April 19, 2000
10 min read
Student Well-Being Homosexual Students: A Group Particularly Vulnerable to Suicide
When Manny was 14, he announced to his parents that he was gay. They promptly restricted his phone calls and locked him in his room, but when those actions didn’t "change" him, they threw him out of the house.
Jessica Portner, April 19, 2000
8 min read
Student Well-Being Memphis: A District Under Emotional Renovation
Architectural terminology glides easily off Barbara Jones' tongue. Metaphors of renovation come in handy, the associate superintendent of the Memphis public schools said last fall, when she began a campaign to systematically knock down the administrative barriers that stand between students and their emotional needs.
Jessica Portner, April 19, 2000
5 min read
Budget & Finance Budget Battles: Mental-Health Care Seldom Comes Out Ahead
The high school needs a new roof. The teachers want a raise. Half the bus fleet needs a maintenance overhaul. Joey is depressed. Which of these problems is a district most likely to tackle last?
Jessica Portner, April 19, 2000
10 min read
Student Well-Being Alone on the Range: S.D. Psychologist Covers Far-Flung Systems
Like a one-man emotional ER, Tim Harmon bolts into a classroom and conducts a 15-minute one-on-one counseling session with a student who threatened to hang himself last year. Then, satisfied that the boy is stabilized, he speeds off to his next case, at a school more than 100 miles east.
Jessica Portner, April 19, 2000
7 min read
Student Well-Being Suicide: Many Schools Fall Short on Prevention
Most schools that teach suicide prevention generally opt for quick units in health class or school assemblies. Typically, they show videos of healthy-looking adolescents who have survived a suicide attempt. But psychologists warn that such an approach can do more harm than good.
Jessica Portner, April 19, 2000
21 min read
Student Well-Being Jason Flatt, 1981-1997
When he killed himself nearly three years ago at age 16, Jason Flatt was a promising freshman football player who earned decent grades at the private Christian schools he had attended since 6th grade.
Jessica Portner, April 12, 2000
11 min read
Student Well-Being Mekye Malcolm, 1981-1998
Classmates used to call Mekye Malcolm Houdini for the way he would deftly slip out of class and wander the hills behind his school, sketching pictures of butterflies and horses nipping at the green North Carolina grass.
Jessica Portner, April 12, 2000
10 min read
Student Well-Being Kerby Guerra, 1985-1999
The day Kerby Casey Guerra killed herself, the 13-year-old wore a perfect mask of happiness. A day earlier, Kerby's mother had treated her to a manicure at a fashionable Colorado Springs salon, and Kerby seemed elated. The 8th grader was transferring from a school she hated, and things finally were starting to look up.
Jessica Portner, April 12, 2000
11 min read
Student Well-Being Complex Set of Ills Spurs Rising Teen Suicide Rate
The impetus for inner turmoil in the hearts of American adolescents in recent years cannot be gleaned from superficial clues such as whether a teenager plays violent video games, listens to Marilyn Manson CDs, or dons black trench coats, school psychologists say. Young people, they say, rarely wear their angst so conveniently on their sleeves.
Jessica Portner, April 12, 2000
19 min read