A Box Elder High School student's death in a suicide shooting that also wounded another teen has brought offers of mental health counseling for friends of the victims.
An official with Bear River Mental Health Services said that when teenagers talk about death and suicide, parents and friends should listen and, if they need it, seek outside help.Brigham City police said the 18-year-old student and a 16-year-old friend went to a convenience store early Dec. 29. They then went to a field where, police said, the two lay side by side on the ground and the 18-year-old fired a .357-caliber handgun at his head.
The 16-year-old's head was next to his friend's, but while the bullet passed through the first boy's head, it only grazed the 16-year-old.
The younger teenager wandered back to the convenience store and reported the incident, said Lt. Danny Earl. He was treated at Brigham City Community Hospital.
Police Chief Charles Earl said his department has ruled the case a suicide and an attempted suicide. He said the 16-year-old, who suffered only a minor facial wound, was a willing participant.
"It's sure hard on us," said Box Elder High School Principal Jay Stuart.
He said no school-wide assembly was called in the wake of the suicide, as has been the practice in some areas after student suicides. He said literature he has read indicates that such assemblies might encourage more suicides.
However, counselors including local psychologists who donated their time were quietly made available to friends of the two boys.
He said the suicide victim was "likable and friendly," but school officials had been aware the boy seemed to be interested in the subject of death and had written a class paper on it. The boy had received private counseling and had supportive parents, Stuart said.
Chuck Sharp, local director of services for Bear River Mental Health, said death obsession appears to be a growing trend with teenagers in the county, judging from calls and visits to his center.
"In a closed area like Box Elder County without the population base of Ogden or, say, Cache Valley, people don't talk about things like this," Sharp said.
He said professionals from the mental health department are available for speeches to civic and church groups and there is a crisis line. But all three are little-used.
Sharp urged parents and friends to talk frankly with teens who express interest in suicide or have death obsessions, and to get outside help if they need it.
"Some people are afraid because they've heard the cost of a psychologist is really expensive, but there are community mental health centers in each of the counties and our charters don't allow us to deny services based on an inability to pay," Sharp said.
"There is a sliding fee schedule based on what you're able to pay."