Two Deaths in One Month Rocks ELHS, Community

Thursday, February 4, 2016, 1:35 pm
By: 
Ann Nichols

Two East Lansing High School students have died in the space of a month. Both were young women: freshman Sydney E. Zaban on January 13 and Olivia Amy Nokken on February 2.

ELHS Principal Coby Fletcher contacted ELHS parents following both deaths; both letters state that a student died, express condolences and indicate that ELHS staff is prepared to provide support to students.

Although neither the letters from Fletcher nor the women’s obituaries refer to causes of death, public response so far has been focusing on suicide prevention. 2015 ELHS graduate Kevin Sweitzer posted this on an ELPS-related Facebook page yesterday (reprinted here with his permission):

…something needs to be done. Someone needs to start a real and genuine conversation about mental health in the high school and middle school levels. My class went through all four years of high school without loosing anybody, and suddenly there are two students gone in a month. These things are frequently part of a chain reaction, and I'm not sure if the resources to stop them are as well publicized as they should. I'm genuinely concerned for the well being of every ELHS student after what has happened, and while my thoughts are with those who are lost, a greater conversation must be held. RIP to those who were lost, and I hope that something can be done to prevent it from happening again.

The ELHS Parent Council also posted this:

ELHS Parent Council members are holding in our hearts the two ELHS families who have lost children in the last month. As a result of these tragic deaths, we have had requests for resources and information about suicide prevention. Please explore the following websites to learn about the basics of suicide and proven interventions.

Trevor Project (LBGTQ Suicide Resources): http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: http://www.sprc.org

American Association of Suicidology: http://www.suicidology.org

JED Foundation: http://www.jedfoundation.org/

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

We are also exploring the possibility of hosting a free training in the Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) suicide prevention approach. We would open it to faculty, staff, students and parents or guardians of ELHS students. You can learn more about the QPR approach at http://www.qprinstitute.com/about-qpr.  If you feel you’d like the QPR training immediately, you can take it on-line at this site for a fee of about $30. Your registration fee will support the QPR Institute.

I have reached out to Principal Fletcher, all members of the ELPS School Board and several area experts on adolescent mental health requesting information on what the District has in place to help students dealing with mental health issues, and to ask what resources are available to help students cope with the deaths of fellow students.

If you know of available help for students of any age, parent groups, or other available resources please contact me at editor_ann@eastlansinginfo.org.

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