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In wake of Ferraro suicide, psychologist says warning signs are all important

February 22, 2012

In the wake of the recent student suicide tragedy at Crescenta Valley High School, La Cañada Unified School District board member Ellen Multari contacted a local mental health professional for advice, information and strategies to help our district families understand and cope with the aftermath of the event.

The author of this article, Debra Kessler, is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in children with emotional and developmental challenges. She serves on the Community Prevention Council of La Cañada Flintridge, an organization that combines community leaders and resources — including representation from the La Cañada Unified School District — to combat the illegal use of drugs and alcohol, substance abuse and family problems in our community.

On behalf of the La Cañada Unified School District, I am grateful to Dr. Kessler for her efforts to help us better understand the varying levels of anxiety our youth are experiencing and how we as family, friends, teachers, administrators and a community can provide support and protection.

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The district is committed to working in partnership with all of the adults who touch the lives of our students in efforts to provide our youth with the network of support they need to build the internal values, skills and beliefs needed to fully engage with and successfully navigate the world around them.

-- Wendy Sinnette, superintendent of La Cañada Unified School District

A young life ended. It was abrupt, dramatic and seemingly senseless. As a community of parents, teachers, students we were all shocked. What went wrong? Were there signs? What led him to this desperate act? It is moments like these where we are confronted with feelings of dismay, vulnerability and a sense of helplessness.

As heartbreaking as suicide is, it can teach us all something. Clearly this young man was struggling with something that was too much for him to handle alone. He was described as a sensitive young man who “always wanted to take care of the underdogs, the ones that were kind of left behind,” and “he was good at sensing when people were hurting and needing someone to talk to.” Yet, in response to his own despair he chose what is often referred to as the permanent solution to a temporary problem.

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