School mourns classmate who committed suicide

Posted at 1:59 PM, May 05, 2016

CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. - The Cedar Springs community is grieving the unexpected loss of an eighth grader who took his life Wednesday morning.

Counselors and the Cedar Springs Public Schools' Crisis Intervention Team continued to be available between the schools Thursday for students, bus drivers, and anyone who is asking for help.

Cedar Springs Public Schools' Superintendent Laura VanDuyn spoke with FOX 17 Thursday about this heartbreaking loss. While speaking about the many mental health programs the district offers, through tears, VanDuyn asked, "how do we end this suicide crisis?"

Wednesday morning near 17 Mile Road NE and Shaner Avenue, a bus with middle and high school students on their way to school witnessed the boy's mother holding him in her arms near the roadside. Buses were quickly advised to avoid the intersection.

“First and foremost we want to wrap love and support around our student body here, helping them through the hurt and the grief and the heartache," said Cedar Springs Middle School Principal Sue Spahr.

The eighth grader had not attended the middle school for about the last seven weeks, according to VanDuyn, and has siblings in the district who are in the fourth and ninth grades.

Spahr described the relationships between her staff and students as "family." She said they are receiving an outpouring of support for this family: students are making cards and posters, and parents are calling the school offering meals.

Dr. My T. Lien, Ph. D, is a psychologist working on the schools' crisis team and said this grief affects everyone.

“Grief is processed so differently by everybody, every individual, and at every different stage of life," said Dr. Lien.

"This has affected the whole community from our very youngest kids here in the district to our very oldest kids in high school."

In the age of social media, Dr. Lien discussed how the face of mental health is changing, stating there is a greater need for outreach.

The schools offer several programs including suicide prevention curriculum with "Live, Laugh, Love;" anonymous bullying and other event reporting through the OK2SAY app; and then "Be Nice," an anti-bullying campaign which happened to hold an assembly at Cedar Springs Middle School Thursday.

It's conversations like these and checking-in, Dr. Lien said, we should have with kids every day.

“Our kids have lots going on, and so as parents even for us just to listen to our kids," said Dr. Lien, "Listen to what they have to say, listen to the things that they’re experiencing every day whether it be good or challenging.”

You may remember last August, Cedar Springs High School Senior Evan Kobayashi committed suicide. School officials have said how the Kobayashi family has reached out to this family, and offers their support too during this difficult time.

Family has set up thisGoFundMe page to help with funeral expenses.