South Sound News

South Sound 5th-grader takes his own life, parents urged to talk to their kids about suicide

AUBURN, Wash. — Parents in the South Sound are having some difficult conversations with their children after an elementary school student took his own life.

"Terminal Park Families, with deep sadness we send this letter to inform you of a recent tragedy," Maegan Hall Both read to us in her living room in Auburn.

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​"One of our fifth-grade students passed away Friday, May 18th. With respect to the privacy of the family we are not sharing further details at this time."

But Maegan -- whose 11-year-old daughter, Bridget, is also in the fifth grade at that Auburn school-- very quickly learned the death was a suicide.

"It's so scary and it's hard to wrap your mind around," Maegan said. But it's no longer an anomaly.

The statistics are alarming. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, two kids kill themselves in Washington State every week, and suicide is now the leading cause of death among 10 to 14-year-olds.

Suddenly Maegan and hundreds of other parents had to find a way to talk about it with their kids-- many of whom heard the news from their classmates at school.

"It was a difficult conversation because she's so young, I don't really know what she understands yet," Maegan told us.

"That's actually what one of our very first steps is -- we want to ask them, 'So what do you know about suicide?' and kind of gauge and find out where they're at," explained Amanda Roberson.

Roberson is the counselor at another elementary in the Auburn School District and part of a crisis team that goes to any of the district's schools when there is a tragedy. Roberson says this tragedy necessitates opening what can be an uncomfortable dialogue between parents and kids.

"Instead of focusing so much on the why and the how, we want to focus on how that makes us feel -- with the little kids, make sure that they know every emotion is normal," Roberson said.

Some children -- the letter says -- may act silly or giggly while others may feel angry. And parents -- like Maegan -- are still coping with their own feelings.

"It breaks your heart to think this didn't have to happen," she said.