Tomblin shares 'heartbreaking' suicide statistics with Hedgesville High students

September 10, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, right, addresses Hedgesville (W.Va.) High School students Monday afternoon about the rising suicide rates in West Virginia and the United States. Joining the governor are Barri Faucett, project director of ASPEN, an adolescent suicide- prevention program in Charleston, W.Va., left, and Michael Musick, who nearly committed suicide in 2008.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. — Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among West Virginians between the ages of 15 and 24, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told more than 300 Hedgesville High School students at an assembly Monday.

He said it’s a “heartbreaking” statistic.

Earlier Monday in Charleston, W.Va., Tomblin signed a proclamation proclaiming this week as Suicide Prevention Week in the Mountain State. It is also National Suicide Prevention Week.

According to Tomblin, a suicide occurs every 14 seconds in the United States.

“That’s simply heartbreaking, and it’s not easy to talk about,” he said.

The school year just began, and already a young girl in Harrison County, W.Va., took her life, he said.

Tomblin said suicide prevention has been one of his priorities since he took office. He was joined by legislators, educational professionals and parents during a speech on the proclamation Monday morning in the state Capitol.

He presented a copy of the proclamation to Manny Arvon, superintendent of Berkeley County Schools, and Ron Lyons, principal of Hedgesville High School.

He told the Hedgesville students in the school auditorium: “We all care about you. Take care of each other. Watch out for your friends. Be careful what you say. Don’t tease or bully them. You don’t always know what’s going on with them.”

Some students could be under great stress or be depressed, he said.

“If you see someone in trouble or if you’re in trouble, talk to someone,” Tomblin said. “You all have a wonderful life ahead of you. Take time to think about what I said.”

Sharing the stage with Tomblin were Barri Faucett, project director of ASPEN, an adolescent suicide- prevention program in Charleston, and Michael Musick, who nearly committed suicide in 2008. His father, Robert Musick, is the chief executive officer for the West Virginia Council for the Prevention of Suicide in Morgantown, W.Va.

Robert Musick attended the assembly, but did not speak.

Faucett suggested the governor announce the proclamation signing in Hedgesville because Eastern Panhandle schools take an active role with the issue of teen suicide, Tomblin aide Amy Shuler Goodwin said.

“Not long ago, I was sitting in those seats in high school,” said Mike Musick, who graduated from high school in 2003. “I know what goes on in high school. I started drinking and smoking weed when I was a senior. It was no big deal. I was getting good grades and I graduated.”

By 2005 and 2006, his drug use began to escalate with prescription drugs.

“Things were getting worse. I was getting more depressed, but I was too embarrassed to talk about it with my parents. It was hard to ask for help,” he said.

He went for treatment early in 2008, but it didn’t last long.

“One day, I showered, shaved and cleaned my room. I wrote a suicide note to my parents telling them I was sorry, that they didn’t deserve this and that they’d be better off with me not there,” he said.

He said there were no guns in the house.

“If there had been, I would have used them,” he said. “I left the house not knowing what I was going to do.”

He said all day he was fighting with himself about whether to take his life. He went back home at 5:30 a.m. the next day. He returned for treatment and has been clean ever since, he said.

“The point of my story is that it can happen to anyone. There are places you can go for help. If you let it, (suicide) will happen. It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” he told the students.

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