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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 29, 2010

Voorheesville grapples with student suicide

By Saranac Hale Spencer

VOORHEESVILLE — The school library became a counseling center yesterday as students and staff dealt with the suicide of Jerry Clark, a high school junior, on Tuesday evening.  (His obituary is on page one.)

Staffed by school social workers, guidance counselors, school psychologists, and counselors from the Albany County Department for Children, Youth, and Families, the center was busy for most of the day, said high school Principal Mark Diefendorf.

“It has ebbed a little over time,” he said late in the afternoon.  He expected that some counseling would be available through today.

The district has begun planning a forum for May 11 to educate the community and school on suicide, he said, with a program directed towards students to follow at a later date in May.

“It’ll be educational,” Melanie Puorto, the director of suicide prevention for the state of New York, said of the community forum.  It will include speakers from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Albany County’s mental health department, she said, which is similar to the forum held in Guilderland in the fall, following the suicide of a student there.

It is important to teach people to recognize the symptoms of depression, she said, and provide them with resources.

There has been a “slight increase with teen suicides,” Puorto said, which she attributes to a “lack of social connectedness… [and the] impact of social networking sites.”

Kids are more vulnerable than they were before, she said, but teens can combat suicide by including information — like 1-800-273-TALK, which is the phone number for the national suicide hotline — and links on their personal webpages.

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