MONTGOMERY CO., Ind. (WLFI) — Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens ages 12-18, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That number hits home for North Montgomery High School after multiple students committed suicide within the last year. Students, staff and the community have now come together to turn the tragedies into a life lesson.
“We lost three of our really great friends at this school. We miss them every single day,” said North Montgomery senior Breanna Pierce.
In less than a year, tragedy struck three times at North Montgomery.
“It’s gut wrenching, you know?” North Montgomery principal Michael Cox said. “That’s the only way to say it.”
From the summer of 2015 to the spring of 2016, three students committed suicide.
“It’s something you dig in and work through because you want to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” explained Cox.
Students, faculty and staff spent several months working to create positive change. That includes expanding the school’s policy on suicide prevention.
“It’s just written to say that we’re going to have a program in place,” said Cox. “We’re going to re-evaluate that plan. We’re going to continue to make sure that plan is appropriate. The nuts and bolts of it comes down to what we’re actually doing in the building.”
One initiative is called the Chain of Life. Nearly every student signed a slip of paper that was used to create a chain that now hangs in the school’s cafeteria. It serves as a constant reminder of the school’s mission to connect, communicate and care.
“By signing your name on that and connecting your link to the chain, then you’re making a commitment to your classmates as well,” explained Cox.
Increased staff training on suicide prevention, as well as guest speakers have raised awareness. Groups like Students Against Destructive Decisions also serve as beacons for students in need.
“We’re there just to make them smile at least everyday and do everything to make sure they’re feeling safe here,” Pierce said.
Something as simple as encouraging notes stuck to lockers have created a stronger bond among the entire student body.
“We learn from these tragedies to make sure that everyone knows that they’re with us and they’re not alone,” added Pierce.