A kid in elementary school was one of four Rancho Cucamonga students to commit suicide at the beginning of this school year and a mental health doctor says we may never understand why.
“Some of the basic things about just being human is we want to make sense of something,” said Dr. Timothy Hougen with the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health. “And the answer may be that we won’t know.”
The four kids went to different schools, had no connection and did not know each other, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s department.
SBSD also confirmed the students killed themselves in the same way.
Hougen said there are sometimes an uptick in suicide rates after a famous person dies. But he said the science is less definitive when it comes to just hearing about a nearby incident and deciding to act.
“It really is something where they would have to have some connection to that person, even if it’s an imaginary connection,” said Hougen who has PhD in psychology and is a senior program manager at SB County’s Child and Youth Collaborative Services Division.
“If you really liked Robin Williams, if you felt very connected to Robin Williams, it doesn’t mean Robin Williams knew you,” he said. “But still you felt connected, so it would have an impact on you.”
These are just general statements based on the current assumption that the four Rancho Cucamonga students have no connection, said Hougen who has PhD in psychology and is a senior program manager at SB County’s Child and Youth Collaborative Services Division.
“I’m interested in that idea of ‘is there something there,’ because if there is, then we need to address it,” Hougen said. “But I’m more invested in how do we get the resources out to those families now, how do we get the resources out to those kids.”
If people can start intervening with each other and providing more resources to the schools, he said, then maybe a connection will become apparent and it can be addressed then.
The county now offers an array of intensive, early intervention and prevention suicide programs. The county’s Community Crises Response Team provides assistance such as mental health assessments, relapse prevention, intensive follow up services and on-site crises intervention.
There are many more programs and services that the county provides in conjunction with school districts, Hougen said, but more needs to be done.
“Obviously it’s not enough because it’s not going down,” he said. “We need to figure out a way to curtail this trend of increased suicides.”
Parents need to talk candidly about the issue with their kids, he said.
“You talk to your children with love. You talk to your children with information. You talk to your children with purpose,” he said.
“And you also stop talking and listen.”
When kids give a short answer, and that is all they’re giving you, he said, pause for a bit, and ask for more politely.
“If you are really concerned for them, then press.”
Press with them in a polite, loving way, Hougen said, press with them through getting some help.
“Press with them by contacting the schools and asking ‘what are the programs available for children that you’re concerned about,’” he said.
“And then ask if someone else there will talk to your child.”
San Bernadino County Crises West Valley Community Crisis Response Team:
Ph: (909) 458-1517 • Pager number (909) 535-1316 (7 Days a Week 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.)
Nationally: If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).