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Commentary: Schools should have suicide awareness programs

BY Renee Anderson

Mother of child who committed suicide

My name is Renee Anderson. I am a parent and a suicide survivor. I am deeply hurt and concerned over Menahga's superintendent Mary Klamm's decision to deny a memorial page in this year's annual for Kyle Kenyon. She seems to want to hide behind the claim that there is no school policy on such a thing. That is just a sorry excuse from an administrator who didn't think she would be called into question on a cruel and heartless decision. Park Rapids has had many memorial pages over the years for students who passed away before graduation. I had two such pages in one of my yearbooks. The cause of death is not the issue whatsoever but singling out Kyle because he died by suicide is beyond reprehensible.

Menahga, Park Rapids and all our surrounding area schools have an opportunity to open lines of communication with the students. We have anti-bullying programs, be kind programs, and students against drunk driving programs - why not a suicide awareness program that attempts to reach students in crisis? These kids feel isolated, misunderstood and as though they are the only ones feeling the way they do. As parents who've lost children to suicide - trust me - we are NOT trying to glorify suicide. We are desperate to reach as many kids as possible to prevent other parents, siblings and classmates from suffering the same devastating loss. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers schools resources to build a suicide awareness program. Please, for the sake of our student body, look into providing a program. Talk about it!

Kyle, like my son, was loved and treasured by the people who knew him. His classmates only want to honor his memory in their annual because he is still very much a part of them. These students need to talk about him, and laugh and cry over the memories he left them. It is a crucial part of the healing process. To deny them a memorial page is to deny their grief an outlet. It is harmful to them. Schools are supposed to help their students not intentionally harm them. It's just cruel and hurtful to tell these students they cannot remember Kyle in their annual. He is their classmate and friend.

Please re-evaluate this issue. And please take steps to provide our student population with resources to prevent suicide rather than sweep it under the rug as though it doesn't happen. How many do we have to lose to realize our young people are in crisis? It's not going away.

I am disappointed that we continue to hide behind fear in taking this epidemic on head to head. My family continues to struggle with society's unwillingness to acknowledge a rapidly increasing number of young people's deaths by suicide. MADD and SADD do not encourage drinking any more than a suicide awareness group seeks to encourage suicide. If the person is going to jump off the proverbial ledge it's going to be because he feels overwhelmingly alone and that there is no place he can go for help, not because we talk about it or say the word suicide out loud.