Middletown High School made several changes after 3 teen suicides, principal says

Middletown High School made several changes after 3 teen suicides, principal says
Posted at 1:01 PM, Apr 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-01 13:01:21-04

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- People sometimes wonder if their child's school is doing enough to help students after one commits suicide.

Carmela Cotter, principal of Middletown High School, said she understands those concerns after three of her students committed suicide last year.

Several programs at Middletown, including "trauma training" to detect when a teen might be depressed, aim to prevent it from happening again, she said.

"Losing part of the Middie family is a pain not like anything else," Cotter told the Journal-News. "Each one of them, we love them, they're precious to us, and we want to do our best for them in every way. Any loss is a pain to us as well."

Two Middletown students committed suicide over the summer and a third over Christmas break in 2016, she said.

The Journal-News reports Butler and Warren counties had seven teen suicides last year, meaning nearly half were tied to Middletown.


Often, Cotter said, a school reflects its community -- the good and the bad.

"What goes on in the community usually comes in and happens in your school," she told the Journal-News. "Whatever happens in Middletown happens in the school."

Middletown's trauma training helps teachers spot the "signs and signals" of potential trouble with students before it develops into something more serious that may trigger suicidal thoughts.

Cotter said the school has started a Middie Advisory Period, where students and teachers meet weekly and work on their social and emotional development.

Any time a student dies, from whatever cause, Cotter said the school has counselors available and encourages students to talk with them. They're also encouraged to take part in "art release," creating posters and writing farewells on banners that are hung in the hallways.

Still, she said, circumstances in students' lives -- such as poverty and crime -- can present extra challenges.

"We have to do a good job at teaching students how to be resilient in the world," she told the Journal-News. "There are points of challenge all over the world. Those things will be wherever anyone is. That's a natural part of living, a natural part of growing up."

Read more about Middletown's efforts at the Journal-News, a WCPO media partner.