Shawnee Mission community holds panel for open conversation about suicide prevention

SHAWNEE, Kan. -- After the loss of two students at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School, many in the community are coming together to focus on suicide prevention.

On Thursday evening, the district organized an open meeting that was facilitated by the Johnson County Mental Health Center.

“Really the purpose is primarily to answer their questions and second is to provide them a little bit of information about what they should or could expect from their kids,” said Tim DeWeese, director of the Johnson County Mental Health Center.

A team of mental health professionals held a panel discussion at Shawnee Mission Northwest on Thursday night to talk about loss, grief and prevention.

“We all respond to traumatic events differently, so I think it’s important that parents really pay attention, particularly now to their kids, to pay attention to see if there’s any behaviors that aren’t typical but also to engage them in conversation,” DeWeese said.

Following the discussion, parents had a chance to ask questions and share their own experiences.

“The reason that I came is because I know I’m not an expert, but the experts are going to be the kids who talk to the kids and what we want to do is be a resource to the kids when the find out that their friends are in trouble,” Rich Kaminsky said.

Kaminsky works with teenagers through a referee training program. He understands how social media and increasing expectations can weigh on teens today more so than ever before.

“I’m 70 years old, and I’ve had the same problems, but I guess they must be a whole lot worse today than it was for me when I was growing up,” Kaminsky said.

He said he benefited from the information offered at the event and wishes more people could have heard the message.

“Why weren’t the seats full? Which surprised me because everyone is saying, 'It didn’t happen to me. It didn’t happen.' And what we’re trying to say is that it did happen to us because we’re part of the society,” Kaminsky said.

“It’s not a mental health center issue. It’s not a school issue. It’s really a community issue,” DeWeese said.

Suicide Help Information

If you are thinking of hurting or killing yourself PLEASE call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).

Learn how lifestyle changes can help you battle depression. KU is running clinical trials. To learn more call 785-864-4274 (leave a message) or visit

If you are struggling and need to talk to someone who understands, call 1-866-WARM-EAR or 913-281-2251.

If you need more information or a referral, please call Mental Health of America at 913-281-2221.

No matter your financial situation, there is help available. Please seek help if you or someone you know is suffering.

Suicide Help Information Online

If you are having suicidal thoughts, we urge you to get help immediately.

Go to a hospital, call 911 or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).

Click on the boxes below for our FOX 4 You Matter reports and other helpful phone numbers and resources.