How can you tell if your own child is suicidal? Here are the warning signs.
"I'm at a loss right now," said Howard Buford, 35, one of dozens of parents who rushed to Dalton after the 11:15 a.m. tragedy.
Theodore, who lived a few blocks from the school, was active in school groups, including the Math Olympiad, friends said. He played varsity football and designed the team's Web site; he also threw the discus for the school's track squad. He had 512 friends on Facebook.
The motive for his suicide remains unknown, investigators said. Theodore's younger brother also attends Dalton, police said.
Before jumping, he walked up to an empty dance studio on the 11th floor, a police source said. When asked by a teacher why he was there, Theodore said he wanted to look around.
When the teacher returned to her office down the hall, Theodore took off his jacket and left it with his book bag on the floor. He crawled out the top of the window and leaped.
The school is in session this week, and Theodore nearly landed on several children playing on the sidewalk when he jumped at 11:15 a.m., witnesses said.
"I heard a loud bang," said Dalton security guard Michael Brown, who was on the street. "It sounded like a gunshot. ... He was just dead."
"The fourth-graders were out here [and] everybody started running away from the body," Brown said. "The teachers got them out of here pretty quickly."
The school, which has 1,300 students in kindergarten through high school, will provide counseling for those affected by the incident.
"The Dalton School community is deeply saddened by today's tragedy, which involved the death of a beloved 11th-grade student," the school said in a statement. "Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the family."
This tragedy got us thinking ... how would we know if our kid wanted to kill himself? We called clinical psychologist Dr. Lisa Boesky, and author of When to Worry: How to Tell if Your Teen Needs Help--and What to Do About It for guidance.
Dr. Lisa says the following behaviors are important "warning signs" of teens who may be thinking about ending their lives:
- Gives away possessions of value
- Becomes withdrawn and isolated
- Exhibits abrupt personality change
- Drops out of usual routine
- Neglects hygiene
- Engages in self-destructive or risky behavior
- Makes statements about suicide, dying, or being "gone"
- Looks or sounds like feelings of depression are deepening
- Is curious, fascinated, or preoccupied with death
- Talks about feeling inadequate, hopeless, or guilty
Other signs moms should be aware of include statements like: "I won't be a problem for you much longer," '"I wish I were dead," "You'd be better off without me," "You probably wish I would just die."
Certain risk factors also increase a teen's suicide risk, says Dr. Lisa. If your teen suffers from a mental health disorder, uses alcohol/drugs, recently experienced a major stressor, is disruptive or aggressive, has been arrested, or is a perfectionist, be particularly vigilant. Teens who end their lives typically have a combination of risk factors AND warning signs.
If your teen is talking about wanting to die or has made a suicide attempt, he or she must be attended to immediately. Any suicide attempt -- no matter how "harmless" it seems -- requires a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health professional who is knowledgeable about teen suicide.
The evaluation should determine:
- your teen's level of risk
- whether he or she suffers from a mental health or substance abuse disorder
- what current stressors are present
- which strategies need to be in place to ensure his or her safety
Dr. Lisa says the Dalton suicide is a tragic reminder that no teen or family is immune from suicide risk. "Even the most perfect-looking teen who goes to one of the most expensive schools in the nation can be struggling on the inside," she says.
Our thoughts go out to Teddy Graubard's family in this horrific time.