Notes from the Old Noank Jail: Suicide prevention panel an eye opener

On June 8, the Groton Public Library, under the direction of Teen Librarian Jessa Franco, sponsored a 90-minute panel on suicide prevention.

The program was formed to follow up on the popular Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” concerning a young girl who had left 13 separate tape recordings that detailed the reasons why she ended her life.

Ms Franco indicated that the show “has become controversial for its graphic depiction of suicide and rape, as well as how it addresses mental health challenges.”

The panel itself consisted of three local experts to answer questions about the show and methods for suicide prevention. The panel was presented with questions by Ms. Franco that were based on the Netflix show. Suicide is the second most common cause of teenage deaths.

According to the panel, 90 percent of suicide victims were in need of psychiatric help. The tween and teen years are perhaps the hardest time to grow up because (especially with social media bullying) information can come from so many sources.

There are more suicides now during the middle school years. Signs vary considerably, but kids who are more quiet than usual, more passive, “not trying any more” with activities, using drugs or alcohol, going from being anxious to suddenly being very calm, feeling very “alone” can all be indicators.

If you sense a person is in difficulty, ask them outright and be supportive with their replies, allowing them to vent and not abandoning the conversation.

The panel consisted of Robert Harrison of Westerly Hospital, who has over 40 years specializing in the emergency room; Lacy Johnson, director of programs for Creative Potential LLC based in Montville, and Michael McGovern, senior clinician for Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services, which provides 24/7 crisis intervention services via telephone, accessed by calling 2-1-1.

The audience was represented by several teenagers and young adults, along with older representation from the CT Coalition for Children, the Noank Baptist Church, a retired board member of Noank Baptist Group Homes for girls and a retired employee from Care Plus programs of Natchaug Hospital.

Members of the audience said there needs to be much stronger attention focused on these issues by the schools themselves, including increased staffing and more extensive training.

This, of course, is difficult to deal with because of current budget problems in Groton and statewide.

The panel portion of the program was video recorded by the library and is expected to be shown on the Groton Municipal Television channel beginning early in July. Because of the extensive commentary by the panel, we strongly encourage that as many of you as possible, especially if you have children, try to see the broadcasts. For this writer, the discussion was an eye-opener.

Ed Johnson lives in Noank.

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