Community grieves, discusses suicide prevention after Olathe East student takes his life

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OLATHE, Kan. -- A young life ended abruptly Thursday when a 15-year-old Olathe East student took his own life. Now a community is left to grieve and wonder what could have prevented it.

FOX4 has learned the school suspended the student because he admitted taking a Xanax at school without a prescription. Police would not confirm it publicly, but FOX4 learned it’s believed the boy took his life because he was distraught about the discipline he faced.

FOX4 has also learned that police arrested a male student from Olathe East. That teenager is under suspicion of distributing the illegal medication given to the student who later took his own life. Police arrested the student Friday morning for possession and distribution. No charges have been filed yet.

Psychologist Wes Crenshaw said the teenage brain is still developing cognitively, and the community needs to work together to prevent suicides.

"When something tragic or important happens in their lives and it overwhelms them emotionally, there's a national brain chemical that leads to more impulsiveness. So it may lead them to respond or over-respond in a way they can't really reverse in the case of suicide," Crenshaw said.

Crenshaw said the use of prescription drugs like Xanax without a prescription mirrors society’s practices about medication.

"It's not a study drug. It's not a way to relax," Crenshaw said. "It's just a way to help you do better in a larger treatment model, and that's not how it's done a lot of times in our society. You hand someone a pill and expect them to solve a problem, and kids get that idea in their head that pills are problem solvers."

In addition to the suspension and in accordance with Olathe’s district-wide drug policies, administrators also removed the student from the track team.

"Youth are taught perfection, that things should be perfect," said Megan Clark, a prevention coordinator with Johnson County Health. "But I think we lack being able to tell youth our resilient skills and how to come back from things that are tough and didn't go as you think they would. So those are some missing pieces I feel like could maybe help with that prevention of suicide."

Clark said parents should remember what it was like when they were teenagers, and try to keep their kids talking about how they feel.

"Sometimes we can look at it as an adult as well it's just a break up, it's not your forever love, It's just the track team or whatever and just say it's not that big of a deal," Clark said. "But for youth it is a a big deal. That's what their focused on."

Clark says in Johnson County this year so far, there have been about dozen youth suicides.

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.




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