The online local news outlet The Daily Voice reported some incredibly sad news yesterday:
State Police: 17-Year-Old Boy Takes Fatal Leap From Route 322 Bridge In Downingtown
05/24/2021 2:19 p.m.
“A 17-year-old boy took a fatal leap from the Route 322 bridge in Downingtown (Chester County) Monday afternoon, PA State Police told Daily Voice.
Lanes in both directions on Route 322 between Bradford Avenue and Downingtown Pike were reopened as of 4:35 p.m. after being closed for nearly two and a half hours, according to Patty Mains, spokeswoman for the Chester County Department of Emergency Services.
The boy, whose name has yet to be released to the public, committed suicide by jumping from the bridge, Trooper Kevin Kochka told Daily Voice.“~The Daily Voice 5/24/21
This occurred in Downingtown , but a similar railroad trestle teen suicide also occurred in Berwyn in 2015. Also male.
In 2019, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on a “suicide cluster” in Downingtown. But before that year, there was the suicide of a beautiful 14 year old girl named Rose Rondinelli, also from Downingtown.
Why I am mentioning Rose? Because her poor bereaved friends and family had to suffer again in May of 2019 when she was left out of the yearbook. Now according to the school district she will be in the 2022 yearbook which would have been her senior year. I remember Rose’s story. I think Rose needs to be remembered, and all of these other kids who left the world too soon.
I have not seen the news pick this latest tragedy up yet except for The Daily Voice. I went back to PA State Trooper Kevin Kochka today to see if there were any updates. Truthfully I didn’t expect anything, because it’s too new but thought I would ask.
Trooper Kochka is an incredibly thoughtful human being and he replied to me in part:
“I agree, this year has taken a terrible toll on all of our children and mental health is not only a major issue right now with our teenagers, but this pandemic is going to have a longer effect than just the virus itself.
Education and services for mental health is more important now then ever and we need our kids to know that there is NO SHAME whatsoever in talking about it. We have to make mental health feelings/episodes are something people know are ok to have and completely normal to get help for.
More importantly training/education for early identification is key. The early identification of signs/symptoms that someone may be having a mental health/crisis event, could save someone’s life and keep themselves and or others safe. I’m sorry I can’t provide more on the actual incident but want you to know this is something that is important to me.“~ PA State Trooper Kevin Kochka
Trooper Kochka is so right about the need for mental health services and resources. And it is so hard at times for parents to pick up the cues. I have written several times before on teen suicide. I will note another wrinkle COVID has caused is often how almost impossible it is to get a professional your kid can talk to. I know people who had to wait weeks to even get someone to contact them back. And contacting them back, didn’t mean granting an appointment in most cases. Or that the parents can afford the costs of therapy.
Yesterday, former Downingtown Mayor and Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell said:
“Our hearts are broken today. In this community we’ll do everything we can to help our neighbor, our friend, or a child.
As we mourn, let’s find ways to help.
Chester County has resources that I hope you’ll share with your network.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing a mental health crisis, call 610-280-3270 available 24/7.
If you are feeling lonely, depressed or anxious and just want to talk, call Chester County’s warm line, 1-866-846-2722. This line is staffed by trained individuals in recovery.
~ Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell
Teen Talk Line ensures seamless referral to Mobile Crisis for youth in need of immediate or higher-level support. The call line is 855-852-TEEN (8336) and the text line is 484-362-9515.”
Of course when Josh posts this there is immediate discussion of the endless circle of headaches of the PRO-open school set vs. the STAY AT HOME-keep schools closed set. To those people I say for Christ’s sake! Get your political jollies elsewhere no matter which side you are on! A family is grieving, this poor child’s friends are grieving. There are no winners in this equation right now, it’s a devastating local event that speaks to a problem within many communities.
The absence of in person interaction has had a lasting affect on kids, especially boys. Boys bottle stuff up more, are far less communicative about feelings than girls. That is not to say girls won’t clam up. They will. What I am saying is boys internalize a lot. Societal mores – men/boys don’t cry, right? Wrong. They should. Everyone needs a good cry every now and again. If we can’t get those feelings out, they poison us.
And yes, mental health crises for teens was around pre-COVID, and then COVID ramped up the issues because the kids feel isolated. We were all home because that is what we had to do. I am not entering the debate of schools open vs. schools closed but it had an effect, a profound affect on kids.
Ironically May is mental health awareness month. Independence Blue Cross actually sent an article out today to insureds:
With the COVID-19 pandemic likely came a flurry of emotions—fear, excitement, stress. But of all the ups and downs most of us have confronted during the past few months, intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, and loneliness might be the most prominent.
A recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that depression rates have surged among American adults since the start of the pandemic, up from 11 percent in 2019 to 36 percent in 2020. Increased reports of loneliness have been occurring as well, with one survey from SocialPro noting that roughly one-third of adults consider themselves to be lonely.
While it’s entirely normal to experience these negative emotions, it’s also important to seek help—and ultimately get treatment—if you’re struggling. Depression, when left untreated, can have a number of harmful impacts on your health, including increasing your risk for heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, and a weakened immune system.
The sooner you’re able to identify your needs and receive help, the sooner you’ll start to feel better.~IBX/ Independence Blue Cross
Now I will be honest and say over the past few years there have been too many suicides within the Downingtown Area School District, right or wrong.
Schools need to talk about mental health. They need to talk to their kids about it and not talk down to them. Some school guidance counselors are wonderful, some I think are less so. I think school districts need to make sure their guidance counselors are taking advantage of continuing ed on mental health and school districts need to give these counselors and teachers more resources.
A woman on Josh Maxwell’s post left a comment which truly spoke to me:
“Why does it take a tragedy to get folks to discuss mental health? This should be an issue every school board and admin discusses at every meeting. They should all have a plan.
We desperately need school-based mental health services and family peers in EVERY school. Finding services can take months. Kids spend months on waiting lists. Hospitals haven’t had beds pre-Covid.
Let’s fix the system. The systems are falling our kids. Not enough services, poor pay, high turnover in staff, lack of staff been adequately trained. I can go on and on. Why is it no better than 20 years ago? I have been working on this for 30 years. When are our communities going to say “enough ” and demand change? How many more kids need to die, be hospitalized, not have services or services that are meaningful? What does it take? A hotline is great, but it is far from a fix.”~ Concerned parent.
Freshman year in college the night before parents’ weekend a male friend jumped out of the top floor of the dorm I lived in. I was on the first floor, I woke to sirens and emergency lights. It was right outside where I lived. I never forgot. I was 18 years old. They offered no one for us (students) to talk to. I remember a student organized memorial service in the quad, and someone played the Genesis song Follow You, Follow Me over a loud speaker. I am 57 years old and I still remember this.
Parents in Chester County, please put your politics aside and realize that our kids need us.
Hopewell UMC in Downingtown has responded to this tragedy and is offering a safe space tomorrow for kids and parents to be together. 852 Hopewell Rd, Downingtown, PA 19335 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM. It won’t solve the problem, but I applaud them for caring enough to wish to provide solace and community fellowship even for one night.