A school district in Northeast Ohio is reeling after a sixth student had committed suicide in roughly five months connected to the school district.
Officials for the Perry School District in Massillon held a press conference on Friday in response to the latest suicide.
Explanations for the six deaths are hard to come by.
Chief Michael Pomesky of the Perry Township Police Department says he knows some in the community are blaming bullying. So far, he’s not.
“We’re aware that that is a factor in some suicides, but we have not identified that as an agency in these cases,” Pomesky said.
For a community looking for good news, Dr. Margaret DeLillo-Storey, the Perry School District Clinical Counselor, says the programs and professionals in the district have been successful — even if more suicides happen.
“They’re not magic wands to fix the issue, but they are resources that can be accessed,” said DeLillo-Storey.
She says for people worried about bullying, the district has a “zero tolerance” bullying policy. That doesn’t mean “zero occurrences,” it just means they deal with it as it comes up.
Medical experts say they think the suicides are contagious, in the sense that one suicide may inspire another student to take their life.
That’s leading school district and town officials, along with health professionals to call on the whole community to convince young adults to stop hurting themselves.
“From a behavioral perspective, we’re looking at this as a contagion,” said Carole Vesely at the Crisis Intervention and Recovery Center. “And when it gets to that perspective and that proportion we have to have the entire community onboard to help us.”