Identical meetings in Tuxedo and Greenwood Lake designed to reach out to the community in both school districts TUXEDO - The Tuxedo School District is encouraging members of its school communities in Tuxedo and Greenwood Lake to attend community forums designed to provide information and increase awareness of issues related to depression and suicide prevention. Two community forums, “Understanding Mental Health, Depression and Suicide Prevention,” will feature a panel of survivors from the community who will speak about what they have learned - some through personal loss - and explore what resources are available to them “ to be able to reach out to young adults as parents, as friends, and as teachers,” according to the district. Information will also be provided to identify and promote strategies that facilitate opportunities for people to connect within the local community to assist in promoting mental wellness and suicide prevention, the district added. George F. Baker High School Principal Denis Petrilak said it was important for Tuxedo to take a proactive approach to suicide awareness and prevention efforts, particularly in light of recent events in the Monroe-Woodbury School District, where two students died earlier this year. “The recent events at Monroe-Woodbury were a factor,” said Petrilak. “And recently, all the (area) high school principals met, where David Bernsley from Monroe-Woodbury spoke about the different things his district is doing. He spoke about the need to be proactive in the things they (other districts) can do.” 'We are no different’ The principals knew Monroe-Woodbury was not unique in the need to provide ongoing education and reinforcement about suicide awareness and prevention efforts to its students, faculty and the community-at-large. “Every high school in the area has dealt with this and we’re no different than anybody else,” said Petrilak. “During the discussion, principals from other schools related they have been dealing with attempts (at suicide) at their schools. The principals knew the issue might be a larger problem than anyone realized.” Concurrently, Petrilak explained, the high school’s 10th grade health class had just completed a unit on suicide and suicide prevention. “Part of that unit (of study) included hearing from speakers who had a great impact on them,” he said. “This was also a timely topic and an important topic and we wanted to make sure everyone in our school community was educated on this issue.” Petrilak agreed with mental health experts who say while schools need to keep a watch on their students, suicide prevention and awareness is an issue that affects everyone, and that’s why it’s a critical community issue. “There’s a lot of discussion in the community on this issue,” said Petrilak. “And, we want to focus that discussion and make sure it is guided in the appropriate direction.” Encourage Greenwood Lake participation The district also wanted to make sure parents from Greenwood Lake were part of discussion opportunities. About 75 percent of Baker’s high school population comes from Greenwood Lake through an agreement with both districts. But suicide awareness and prevention efforts are for all age levels, he said, and Petrilak was hopeful parents of students from the Greenwood Lake School District would take advantage of the community forum to be held at the Greenwood Lake Middle School. “The same risk factors are there for middle school age children,” said Petrilak. “We know it can be sometimes difficult for Greenwood Lake parents to get to Tuxedo in the evening, that’s why we’re offering the same forum at two different locations.” M-W community forums begin next week CENTRAL VALLEY - The Monroe-Woodbury School District will begin the first six of its planned community forums focusing on suicide prevention and awareness next week. “These meetings will start with a brief presentation from a suicide prevention professional who will discuss prevention, signs of depression, and what you should do if you have concerns,” wrote David Bernsley, the high school principal, in a letter posted on the district’s Web site, www.mw.k12.ny.us. “Time will be allotted at the conclusion of each presentation for questions and answers.” Due to the purposely smaller settings for the meetings, participants are asked to pre-register so a seat is available for everyone. “Also, in order to generate topics for future town hall meetings, we will ask each person who attends to complete a “menu” of options,” Bernsley wrote. “From these responses, we will tailor presentations to address those issues of parental concern.” Each meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. Dates and venues are: Monday, Feb. 28: First Presbyterian Church in Monroe Thursday, March 3: Highland Mills United Methodist Church Tuesday, March 8: Temple Beth-El (the Monroe Temple) in Monroe Thursday, March 10: Grace Episcopal Church in Monroe Tuesday, March 15: St. Paul Lutheran Church in Monroe Wednesday, March 16: Congregation Eitz Chaim in Monroe This schedule is the most current information, as posted on the Monroe-Woodbury School District’s Web site, www.mw.k12.ny.us, as of Feb. 23, and has been updated since its Feb. 11 publication in The Photo News. To register, e-mail your name and contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information, contact Bernsley’s office at 460-7000. - Nancy Kriz Every high school in the area has dealt with this and we’re no different than anybody else.” Denis Petrilak, principal of George F. Baker High School in Tuxedo, talking about the reasoning behind and the importance of the Tuxedo School District providing information on suicide awareness and prevention to the Tuxedo and Greenwood Lake communities Essential information The Tuxedo and Greenwood Lake schools community forums, ““Understanding Mental Health, Depression, and Suicide Prevention,” will take place: Thursday, March 3, from 7 to 8 p.m. at George F. Baker Tuxedo High School in Tuxedo. Tuesday, March 8, from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Greenwood Lake Middle School. Speakers: Mary Anne D’Aliso of the Patrick M. D’Aliso Foundation of Monroe, which provides financial support to accredited suicide awareness and prevention programs, focused on assisting teenagers; and which awards two scholarships to graduating wrestlers, who will attend accredited four-year colleges or universities and who have successfully competed on the athletic field, in the classroom and in society. D’Aliso’s son, Patrick D’Aliso, a Monroe-Woodbury High School student, lost his life to suicide in 2004. Sean Gerow of the Family Empowerment Council in Middletown District officials recommend parents, students, teachers and community leaders attend. For more information call: Sean Gerow at 343-8100 Kelly Fosstveit, Tuxedo School District intervention specialist at 351-4786. Greenwood Lake Middle School at 782-8678. The silent epidemic of youth suicide Suicide ranks as the third leading cause of death for ages 15 to 24 and fourth for ages 10 to 14. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college age youth as well as for ages 15 to 19, in many states. NHSDA Report / SAMHSA (US Dept. of Health) - In 2000, over one million youth attempted suicides in the U.S. That equates to over 2,700 attempts each day in our nation by youth, ages 12 to 17. Each week nationwide, approximately 100+ young people are lost to suicide. Even though white males make up the majority of completed suicides, from 1980-1995, suicide among black youth, ages 10 to 14 increased 233 percent and in black youth, ages 15-19, suicide rates increased 126 percent For black youth in the Southern region of the nation, there was an increase of 214 percent In the past 40 years, youth suicide rates have almost tripled. Between 1980 and 1996, suicide rates for ages 10 to 14 increased by over 100 percent. More teenagers and young adults have died of suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia and influenza, and chronic lung disease combined. According to the APA, four out of five people who attempt suicide have given clear warnings. Source: The Patrick D’Aliso Foundation (www.patrickmdalisofoundation.org).