Suicide prevention forum set

Parents and students are being encouraged to attend a suicide prevention awareness forum tonight,

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Categories: Schenectady County

Parents and students are being encouraged to attend a suicide prevention awareness forum tonight, after a Guilderland High School junior girl committed suicide last month.

Albany County Department for Children, Youth and Families is sponsoring the event, which will be at 7 p.m. in the Guilderland Town Hall meeting room.

The panel includes Mary Jean Coleman, survivor support coordinator for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention; Andrea Kollar, director of Children and Adolescent Outpatient Services at Capital District Psychiatric Center; Moira Manning, director of children’s mental health services for the Albany County Department for Children, Youth and Families; Jill Ordonez, director of United Way’s 2-1-1 and Samaritan’s Hotline; and Melanie Puorto, director of the Suicide Prevention Initiative for the New York State Office of Mental Health.

Superintendent John McGuire said students are still grieving the loss and there is a crisis response team in place at school. “We want to do everything to ensure their health and safety,” he said. “We’re monitoring students very closely, connecting with students we feel might have any particular risk factors, having been a friend or closely associated with the child who passed away.”

He added school officials have reached out to mental health professionals and they have responded wonderfully. This panel is extremely knowledgeable, McGuire said.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to get really good information,” he said.

School officials want to prevent what happened in Schenectady, where four high school students killed themselves during the 2008-09 year. The first suicide occurred in November. The suicides stemmed from a group of close-knit girls who had banded together for protection against other girls. After the first girl killed herself, the others followed during the course of five months.

Schenectady brought in a national expert, Boston Center for Trauma Psychology Executive Director Robert Macy, who visited the school and hosted a lecture this past spring.

Guilderland school officials sent out letters to parents advising them of this forum. It is also asking parents to monitor their children for signs of suicidal tendencies including talking about committing suicide, having trouble eating or sleeping, withdrawing from friends, social activities or hobbies, or taking unnecessary risks.

A list of community resources is also available on the school district’s Web site at www.guilderlandschools.org.

A memorial bowl-a-thon will be held for the student who died on Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. at Town & Country Lanes on Western Avenue. The cost is $20.

Also later this month is the 11th annual National Survivors of Suicide Day on Nov. 21. Conferences for survivors will be taking place throughout the country.

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