District Attorney Marian Ryan, center, with Newton School Superintendent David Fleishman and Dori Zaleznik, Newton Chief Administrative Officer
District Attorney Marian Ryan, center, with Newton School Superintendent David Fleishman and Dori Zaleznik, Newton Chief Administrative Officer

MPY and District Attorney Ryan Host Suicide Prevention Conference
May 8th, 2015

Confronting Suicide: School & Community Response to Crisis

NEWTON, MA – Speaking at the “Confronting Suicide: School & Community Response To Crisis” conference today at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan called on communities to share best practices to support young people facing mental health and emotional challenges.

Today’s conference was prompted in part by the three teen suicides Newton experienced in 2014. It was hosted by the Middlesex Partnership for Youth, a non-profit organization which provides prevention and intervention resources and training to school districts and communities in collaboration with the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney Ryan chairs the MPY Board of Directors.

“It is tragic that these teens felt the only answer to their challenges was to take their own life,” said Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan. “By talking openly we can help to remove the stigma around suicide, depression and mental illness. Our goal is to help our children by making sure they are safe, protected, and heard.”

At today’s event, District Attorney Ryan presented Newton officials with the “Martin T. Meehan Educational Leadership Award” in recognition of the outstanding work the Newton schools and community accomplished in the area of suicide prevention and mental health. Each year the award is given to a school district which demonstrates exemplary school leadership in matters of health and safety.

"While last year was a very tough one for the Newton Public Schools, we have expanded our capacity to address mental health issues and discuss suicide," said David Fleishman, Newton Public Schools Superintendent. "The MPY conference today is a wonderful opportunity for our terrific staff and administrators to share all that we have learned."

Following the three teen suicides, the City of Newton and the Newton Public School system quickly mobilized to help the grieving community. The City of Newton provided counseling for students, family members and staff, and a community-based long-term response plan to youth suicide was created. The response plan includes a suicide prevention coalition, additional mental health training for educators, and the inclusion of the “Signs of Suicide” curriculum and brief screening for adolescent depression.

“In the wake of a suicide, a strong community response should not only comfort the grieving, but also identify those quietly struggling with psychiatric illness who may be most vulnerable,” said Dr. Susan Swick, Chief of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Newton-Wellesley Hospital. “When trusted institutions within a community can come together and provide clear, accurate information alongside support, reassurance and resources to youth and the concerned adults around them, that can make a critical difference in both of these tasks. When it is done well, it also fosters improved community cohesion and healing.”

In addition, “Newton Cares,” a community based coalition dedicated to preventing suicide led by the Riverside Trauma Center was established to address the challenges some teens face that may lead them to consider suicide.

“Today’s conference is an opportunity for educators and community members from Newton and across Middlesex County to come together to discuss this important issue and learn from each other, in the hope we can prevent youth suicide and better address the needs of students in crisis,” said Executive Director Margie Daniels of the Middlesex Partnership for Youth.

Middlesex County is one of the most populous counties in the country with 54 towns and cities and 26 colleges in urban, suburban, and rural areas, comprising over one quarter of the population of Massachusetts. The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office has offices throughout the county, including in Ayer, Cambridge, Concord, Framingham, Lowell, Malden, Marlborough, Newton, Somerville, Waltham and Woburn.