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Death of WJ Sophomore Increases Student Awareness for Suicide Prevention

January 1 marked the tragic death of a well-liked Walter Johnson High School sophomore known for his passion for drama and colorful bow ties.

Students honored the death of their peer on social media while others also wore bow ties to school. “There aren’t words to describe how incredible you are,” wrote a student on Twitter.

Other students expressed on Facebook that “[they] wish someone could have helped before this happened” and that they hope “more will be done on suicide prevention.”

Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death for young people. Victoria Layfield, the Program Administrator for the Montgomery County Hotline, stresses the necessity of speaking to others about depressive thoughts

“It is very important that students talk about suicide. If a person doesn’t talk about their suicidal ideation it becomes impossible to prevent it. Talking about suicide lets a person know that they are not alone; that you care,” she explained.

Some may be worried about “planting an idea” about suicide in another person’s mind. John Kalafat, the former president of the American Association of Suicidology, however, noted that this assumption is simply a myth.

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, warning signs of suicide include changes in behavior or appearance, preoccupation with death, and making final plans or unusual arrangements.

In regards to speaking with peers, Layfield offered more advice. “When talking with students about suicide you must be willing to listen. It is important that you speak in an empathic, non-judgmental manor. However, it is also important that you are direct. You must talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide. You may want to ask “Are you suicidal?” or “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”

Layfield explained that students “cannot be afraid to use those words.” She also noted that students, when seeing a need, should not hesitate to get their peers help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.

“You can also contact one of these agencies for them if they are not willing to do this themselves. If nothing else, find an adult or a support system that the student is comfortable speaking with and tell them what is going on,” Layfield added.

It is crucial that students understand a major aspect of suicide: its preventability.

“He will be greatly missed, but never forgotten,” read a letter from the Walter Johnson High School administration. It’s apparent that the WJ community will continue honoring his life.

Below is a resource list for students to seek counseling or other support services:

Montgomery County Crisis Center: 240-777-4000. The center also offers walk in appointments and 24/365 crisis services. It is located at the MidCounty DHHS Building – 1301 Piccard Drive, Rockville, MD 20850.
Montgomery County Hotline: 310-738-CALL( 2255)
, for anyone who is in crisis or just needs someone to talk to.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or, for anyone experiencing suicidal ideation (SI) or for someone whose friend or relative is experiencing it.

Youth Talk Line: 301-738-9697, for any youth in crisis or needing to talk to a non-judgmental, non-biased call specialist.

American Association of Suicidology:, which also includes a list of survivors of suicide support groups

Suicide Prevention Resource Center:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

National Association of School Psychologists:

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education:, for coping with loss

Article by the MoCo Student Community Editor Emily Zhang of Richard Montgomery High School 

About The MoCo Student

In 2012, Student Member of the Board of Education John Mannes created a countywide press network to help build a conduit to share fresh and relevant information written by youth to the wider Montgomery County student body.

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One Response to Death of WJ Sophomore Increases Student Awareness for Suicide Prevention

  1. Megan Pauly Reply

    February 4, 2015 at 3:19 pm

    NAMI Montgomery County, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Montgomery County, is also a resources. Our website is:

Leave a Reply to Megan Pauly Cancel reply