Loudoun Now: Year In Review: Loudoun’s Parents, Teens Partner to Prevent Suicide

December 29, 2016

Loudoun rates among the best places to live. Its families, on average, bring home some of the biggest paychecks in the nation. And its schools boast graduation rates and SAT scores that are head and shoulders above state and national averages. But, this year, the county has also had to stomach a disturbing statistic. It’s seen more teen suicides in 2016 than any recent year on record. Loudoun County Public Schools reported four this year, a big increase in a county that typically sees one every other year. The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office responded to 34 total suicides, of all ages, this year. The rise in suicides, especially among young people, prompted a community-wide conversation about how to improve the safety net to help struggling youth before they make a fatal decision. In the past year, law enforcement leaders and mental health professionals have held town hall-style meetings and forums, working to arm parents to promote potentially life-saving tips. And, in the spring, the school system’s top psychologists, social workers and counselors rolled out an emergency outreach effort to every high school after a fourth Loudoun student in less than a year committed suicide. “I’m very worried,” John Lody, director of the schools’ Office of Diagnostic and Prevention Services, said in April. “After this year, the whole rules changed for us.” “We have a huge problem in our community,” Suzie Bartel, whose son Ryan took his own life in 2014, said at an assembly at Woodgrove High School, also in April. “But if we can all come together, we can make a big difference.”

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