Flags flew at half-staff at a North Texas high school on Mon., Feb. 1, in memory of two teenaged students who allegedly committed suicide within hours of each other over the weekend, shocking an entire community. Police investigate for any possible links between the two incidents.
On Sunday, Jan. 31, family members found the body of Ritu Sachdeva, 17, inside their home, according to CBS DFW. Her death was attributed to a medication overdose. Then, a few hours later, police discovered the lifeless remains of Hillary “Kate” Kuizon, 17, hanging in a wooded area south of the high school football stadium adjacent to Plano East Senior High School that the girls attended.
Local police in the Dallas suburb of Murphy continue to investigate the deaths of these two teens, reportedly friends and classmates. The girls were advanced placement accelerated students, and were involved lots of activities. Neither appeared to be outwardly troubled, making their suicides more difficult to understand.
“Both deaths occurred within hours of each other under circumstances that have led investigators to presume they were both self-inflicted. No motives have been identified, and no evidence of foul play has so far been detected,” the Murphy Police Department said in a statement, according to Fox 4 Dallas.
Still rumors swirl. Murphy police spokesman Celso Martinez noted: “There are a lot of rumors at the school. People have have been known to speculate on what they hear because it’s hard to know what the truth is with a suicide,” Martinez said. “It’s just absolutely tragic what happened.”
Sunday night, grief counselors spoke to about 100 people, students and families on the high school campus to help them deal with the suicides in an effort to better ease the return to class the next day, CBS DFW reported. Counselors also came on campus Monday to assist students and staff in coping with the tragedy. The Plano Independent School District issued a statement, which read, in part: “Today we have twenty additional counselors onsite at the school to support students and staff members during this difficult time.”
North Texas psychologist Sylvia Gearing told the Dallas CBS-TV affiliate that teen suicide can impact an entire community. “One that we really get worried about is what we call the smiling depressant. They are getting all A’s and appear to be doing beautifully in all other areas, but there is this underlying depression that no one knows about.”
According to Psychology Today, smiling depression happens when a person appears happy to others, smiling on the outside while internally suffering with depression. The smile masks symptoms that may include feelings of anxiety, fear, anger, fatigue, irritability, hopelessness, and despair.
The Suicide and Crisis Center of North Texas cautions on a wide variety of possible suicide warning signs including a decline in school performance, loss of interest in social or sports activities, changes in sleeping patterns, giving away treasured possessions, changes in weight or appetite, inability to concentrate or think clearly, and an increase in drug or alcohol use. They also say to look out for teens talking about “going away” or wanting to end it all and suddenly becoming very cheerful and happy after being depressed for a long time.
David Miller, president of the American Association of Suicidology, pointed out that “Suicide is not ‘contagious,’” although he added when another troubled teen identifies closely with those who died, that is the right time for counselors, friends and family to reach out. He said. “Even teens who didn’t know the people who died by suicide may be increased risk if they have pre-existing vulnerabilities.”
The North Texas crisis center lists suicide as the third leading cause of death in young people aged 15-24 nationwide and the second leading cause of death for teens 15-19 years old in Texas. They underscore that within a 12-month period, 16 percent of Texas high school students think seriously about committing suicide, 9 percent attempt it, and 3 percent make an attempt that requires medical attention.
Over the past 60 years, the U.S. suicide rate quadrupled for males 15-24 years old and doubled for females in the same age group.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.