Becky chose not to return to school last fall.
While her classmates at a Davis County high school renewed their friendships on the first day of school, Becky isolated herself in her house.A few minutes before the school bell sounded, Becky ended her life with a gunshot to her head.
Becky (not her real name) was not alone in her decision. Five students have committed suicide since July, said Tom Feil, pupil personnel director of the Davis School District.
None of the incidents was related, but Feil said each student left behind family members, friends and teachers who must cope with the consequences of the suicides.
The Davis district recently developed a team of psychologists, counselors, social workers and other professionals to help students and staff deal with the tragedy of teen suicide.
The team, which has not been officially approved by the school board but has administrative approval, got its first test last month when a Bountiful boy died of an intentional overdose.
A team of professionals arrived at the school early and briefed the principal and staff on how to discuss what had happened. They told the staff that counselors were available to help students work through the many emotions that surface following the suicide of a classmate.
"It was really refreshing to me and comforting at the same time. I was just really appreciative the team was there. I had been caught off-guard by this whole thing," said Bountiful High principal Rulon Homer.
The team, which also included school counselors, worked with the students throughout the day. At the end of the day, the team offered its services to teachers.
Not only did the team provide a means for the students and staff members to deal with the aftermath of the death, it also enabled administrators to carry on the routine, yet necessary functions of the school, Homer said.
More importantly, the team offers help in dealing appropriately with a sensitive subject, Homer said. Feil said the team uses a direct approach in dealing with suicide.
Students and teachers are encouraged to talk about their friend's death and to share their feelings and some of their favorite memories of that person.
"There is frustration. There is the guilt that `I could have done something.' There's some blaming of girlfriends or boyfriends. It's a real emotional state of affairs. The team is there to get the grieving process started," he said.
"That's the point of having a team, so it can be gotten out and not have anyone hurt themselves and hopefully prevent a copycat," Feil said.
"The first three weeks after the suicide are the most crucial . . . That's when you have the most serious potential for a copycat," he said.
Feil said the team is careful not to glorify students who kill themselves.
"Our effort is not to memorialize. Students sometimes want to put a page in the yearbook or put the flag at half-mast. We discourage that. We work with the facts as much as possible," he said.
The program is patterned after one in the Jordan school district. Their experience has been that frank, open discussion is the best vehicle for dealing with suicide, Feil said.
All of the team members were already employed by the school district and are familiar with other support systems affected students and staff may use. Feil said the team also is focusing on prevention techniques.
"We hope we won't have to use it that often," Feil said. "But it happens and it will probably continue to happen. At least we'll be prepared to deal with it."