Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Allen Meyers was the first Barrington Teen Suicide whom I personally knew

You were the first, oh, Allen Myers,
Barrington's fairest, brightest, kindest,
Most talented, most academically gifted,
Who could walk in the company of any of
The so-called cliques, and be respected,
Loved and admired by all therein.

Oh, Allen Myers, we failed you so.
How could it be that we failed you so?

Class President, Captain of the Golf Team,
National Merit Society President, Valadictorean?
What was it that drove you to such despair,
That in November, 1970, you felt compelled
To return (to the seat of the crime), and blow
Your brains out on the front campus lawn
Of that high school which served as both
Our pentitnurty and our cocoon for those four years?

How could it be that we failed to instill in you
The certitude that, as is promised us all in Genesis, I,
You were born a blessed child of God,
Perfectly formed in His Image?

How could it be that we failed to instill in you
The certitude that, failure too would come, no matter
How many successes? And that it is only from our failures
That we learn, and have the opportunity for growth?

Oh Dear God in Heaven Above,
Please do not let us live with this guilt:
That we did not teach Allen Meyers
That as long as you have done the best you know to do,
You have suceeded, win or lose, regardless the score.

Oh Dear God in Heaven Above,
After Allen Meyers had done his level best
At all he attempted to accomplish
Could it be that the accolades he was awarded
Came to taste like wormwood
And that he destroyed himself trying to determine
Just what it was he could do
To top the best he knew how to do?

That Allen Meyers felt compelled to take his own life
Because, at heart, we forced him to believe he needed
To be the perfectionist? Perfect in each and every way
Which legacy was his from the moment of conception?

Oh, Allen Meyers, forgive us.
Oh, Dear God in Heaven,
Let this be a moment, and a failure, but an opportunity,
For us to grow and say, “NEVER AGAIN, shall one of Barrington's children feel compelled to take his life.”

My fears about Barrington, IL teen suicides were confirmed

This weekend while riding the Metra and Union Pacific lines, I met a man who personally knew the parents of three Barrington Consolidated High School heroin over dose deaths; he knew three of the four.

Added to the railroad track suicides, this makes the rate of suicides at Barrington Consolidated High School about 100 per 100,000; in other words, for this one very small age demographic - 15-19, the suicide rate is as high as for Greenland, the suicide capital of the world.


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Column: ‘There is no worse pain’ Parents, students, politicians don purple to mark suicide victim’s 15th birthday By Kelly Egan, Ottawa CitizenFebruary 9, 2011

In honour of Daron Richardson, who took her own life last November, friends such as Cydney Roesler, 16, at right, and others, from left, Logan Watson, 14; Rebecca Watson, 15; Meghan Carty, 15; Paige Watson, 18; and Hannah Driver, 15, organized a day of remembrance at South Carleton High School.

Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington, Ottawa Citizen

Daron Richardson’s legacy is coloured purple, wears braces and Ugg boots, and refuses to be silent to the preventable tragedy that is suicide.

Tuesday was Do it For Daron day, the 15th birthday she will never celebrate. That it reached the floor of the House of Commons — purple sprouting from the country’s most cantankerous crew — speaks to the way her death has jarred eyes and ears.

At South Carleton High School in Richmond, a group of students spent their lunch-hour at a side table covered in black, selling purple Daron wristbands for $5, the money going to suicide prevention. It was a scene repeated in many venues, as more than 200 schools, teams, workplaces and community groups registered to raise money and spread the word.

If one school is any indication, this is a battle that will be fought largely by an army of young women, determined not to let their sisters, brothers, friends, suffer in silence.

“It came as such a shock,” said Paige Watson, 18, a Grade 12 student who was at the Daron table.

“A lot of people think that if you don’t talk about mental illness, it’s not there. Or if you do, it will only make it worse.”

The Watson family has a deep connection to the tragedy. Mother Kelly is a good friend of Stephanie Richardson, Daron’s mother, and their daughters played hockey together.

It has often been remarked that Daron, only 14 when she took her life in November, had so much going for her: a beautiful, popular girl from a well-respected family, athletic, with the benefit of attending private school.

“It just shows that it’s masked,” responded Paige. “You don’t see it.”

There was much purple on display at Ashbury College, Daron’s school, the site of several memorial services on Tuesday.

Roshene Lawson, a chaplain at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, delivered a message to the students, conveying the feelings of the Richardson family.

“In the midst of their pain and, I can assure you, there is no worse pain than the loss of a child you love, in the midst of their pain, Daron’s parents and her sister, Morgan, were worried about all of you,” the chaplain said, according to a transcript.

“They want all of you to know that today is an important day for them not only because it’s the day their daughter was born, but that her life had purpose and her death must have meaning. If they can believe this in the midst of their pain, then surely we can find a way to move forward and ensure that we break the silence about suicide and mental illness.

“That people who feel alone and afraid have somewhere to go to, and someone to reach out to, rather than thinking there is no hope. This is why they created Purple Pledge Day.”

South Carleton, with 1,340 students, has been particularly involved in the Daron day, possibly spurred by the suicide of a student in September.

In the aftermath, there were visits by crisis intervention staff, a parent information night and a presentation to staff by a Royal Ottawa expert.

The Richardson suicide only drove home the idea that something more had to be done.

“There are a lot of connections here,” said principal Trudy Garland. “I think the students needed to feel like they were giving back. It’s as though it was part of their healing process.”

She was impressed at the “grassroots” effort to make Daron day work.

Cydney Roesler, 16, a Grade 11 student, is also closely connected to the Richardson family. She is coached by Luke, is a good friend of Morgan’s, and thought of Daron as a “younger sister.”

She was on the road with her hockey team when she heard. “It was just like total disbelief,” she said. “Like they had made a mistake or something.”

Cydney said she wanted to help with the Daron campaign as a way to show support for the Richardson family, to honour her lost friend and to play a small part in preventing further tragedies.

About two dozen MPs wore purple in the House Tuesday, including David McGuinty and Pierre Poilievre, who read statements about Daron before question period. The NDP, meanwhile, repeated a call for a national suicide prevention strategy.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 24. Adolescence is also recognized as the time for the onset of serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression.

About five per cent of males and 12 per cent of females report a significant episode of depression by the time they reach young adulthood. Studies indicate that about half of young men who have suicidal thoughts never tell anyone.

For more information about suicide prevention or to make a pledge, please go to the Royal Ottawa’s website, and follow the prompts.

To contact Kelly Egan, please call 613-726-5896, or email