Teen’s suicide attempt shows need for awareness, resource officers

If there was any question about the value of school resource officers or public discussions about suicide awareness and prevention, that was settled Monday.

That’s when a female student was believed to have attempted suicide by overdosing on pills at Columbus East High School. Thankfully, the quick actions of a school resource officer, students and school officials saved the student’s life.

East students found the teen, who overdosed on pills, and ran to get the school nurse. About the same time, other students who saw troubling social media posting by the girl notified East deans. Columbus Police Department officer Julie Quesenbery, the resource officer at East, grabbed doses of naloxone, a drug overdose antidote that local police carry, and began administering it to the girl.

Quesenbery administered two doses, which brought the teen to consciousness. The girl was able to walk to a stretcher so she could be taken to Columbus Regional Hospital. School officials made it known to inquiring students throughout the day that the girl was doing OK.

The sobering reality is that local high school students attempt suicide each year and some attempts result in death. One East student died by suicide at the end of the 2014-15 school year, and two died by suicide around the beginning of the 2015-16 school year.

Thankfully, local school officials have taken steps to keep this issue in the open with public discussions that help raise the antennas of students, parents and school officials to warning signs of students in trouble.

Last fall the Columbus community gathered at Columbus East for the first student forum, “Suicide … Let’s Talk About It.” This year, on Sept. 7 at Columbus North High School, students, local residents and school officials participated in a second large-scale suicide awareness event. Students were invited to learn more about suicide prevention and local efforts to encourage students to seek help for themselves or friends who might cause self-harm.

Empowering students to have courage and to not be afraid to speak up if they have concerns about themselves or others is a crucial step in preventing suicides — and one that was evident in the actions of students Monday.

Also evident was the benefit of having a school resource officer in the building.

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. added two-full-time resource officers in early 2014. The purpose is for officers to help students, school officials and parents through relationship building. The officers also are tasked with ensuring safety and looking out for the well-being of students.

The fact that Quesenbery could do that by administering naloxone was significant. Columbus Police Department began equipping officers with naloxone kits in early 2015 and training them how to use the antidote in response to a dramatic rise in heroin use and overdoses. Making sure that all officers, including the school resource officers, were equipped with the kits was a life-saving decision.

Officers have saved the lives of multiple adults with the antidote, and now a high school student received a second chance.

Monday’s incident illustrates why public discussion about suicide must continue and why funding school resource officers and the naloxone kits are worth every penny.