On Thursday morning, a senior at Fort Lauderdale High School, aged 17, shocked his peers and school administrators by jumping from a third-floor balcony to his death.
“This morning, unfortunately, we are mourning the loss of one of our own students. Our entire school community is feeling the pain of this, and we send out condolences to the family as well,” Broward School Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said in a media briefing outside the school on Northwest Fourth Avenue. “The young man, unfortunately, did decide to take his own life. It was an isolated incident.”
Shortly before 10 a.m., the student, according to eyewitnesses, scribbled a letter in pencil on his desk and then climbed an open-air stairs to the third floor balcony, from where he fell to his death.
Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Chief Stephen Gollan said that security guards rushed to him and attempted CPR, and that they contacted 911. The child was rushed to Broward Health, but he was pronounced dead there.
What Principal Said About Fort Lauderdale High School Student Suicide?
Principal Erin Brown of Fort Lauderdale High School informed students and parents via email on Thursday: “Unfortunately, this morning’s medical emergency involved a student who tragically took his own life. Our hearts are broken and our thoughts are with his family. We are here for all of you.”
Before the spread of the COVID virus, the issue in youth mental health has already been becoming worse for some time. Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2021 found that about half of all high school students had feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
Principal Erin Brown of Fort Lauderdale High School wrote a letter to parents and guardians in the wake of the tragedy, urging them to contact the school.
“If any student or family member is feeling overwhelmed with loss or grief or just needs help, please reach out to the school. You can also access help after school hours by calling 211 or get help through Broward Schools website browardschools.com/student-services. This is a tragic loss of life and will be difficult for all of us. We will get through this together.”
Need for Mental Health Education
In light of the prevalence of behavioural problems among secondary school students in Florida, the State Board of Education mandated that all state-funded schools in the state deliver at least five hours of annual mental health education to students in grades 6 through 12.
There are many schools that have not yet finished implementing this mandate. For people between the ages of 15 and 19, suicide is the second greatest cause of death.
Fort Lauderdale High School had security guards on campus all day Thursday in an effort to deter students and faculty from visiting the area where a public suicide had taken place.
Why Did He Choose To Suicide?
According to the Sun Sentinel, several of the boy’s classmates had already seen images of the suicide note and his body on a stretcher within minutes of the leap and the attempt to revive him.
Paulina Johnson, a junior at Fort Lauderdale High who was leaving school with her mother on Thursday afternoon and saw the photographs on her phone, remarked, “We were all in so much shock, the whole school has seen the pictures. There are witnesses in the office crying. There’s security all over the school now.”
Sun Sentinel students uncovered a suicide letter in which the troubled teen discussed a recent breakup and pleaded with his schoolmates not to follow his example.
16-year-old Patience Griffin claims she heard the boy land while in class. “It’s tough having this happen to one of my peers. I didn’t know him personally, but he was in one of my classes.” She’s worried other kids will get an idea from this.
“One girl heard a thud,” said Samuel Fernandez, a student. “A lot of people heard thuds, and I think I heard from the culinary classroom, you could actually see him being wheeled out.”
After the suicide, a father who lives across the street said he went into the school’s main office and saw some pupils crying and others standing stony-faced. He said that dozens of kids, including his own daughter, had seen the fruitless rescue attempts from classroom windows.
How Parents Responded to This Situation?
When parents found out what had happened, they rushed to the school to pick their children and see how their kids were doing.
Melissa Sherman, whose daughter is a student there, stated, “We need to take the time to see all of our students and to see them from their perspective of how heavy the world must seem, I think, because as adults sometimes we tend to brush off things that our kids experience, but we never really know what’s going on. Listen to your kids.”
Students were shielded from witnessing the tragedy by placing the school on lockdown.
“I think we need to do something more about mental health,” said Paola McDonald. “Get together with your kids. Talk. Be there for them when they need to, even when they don’t want to talk.”