After Second Suicide, Fordham Prep in Mourning

The MTA Botanical Garden Station in the Bronx, where one Fordham Prep sophomore took his life on Feb.1.

By Andrew Ballard

Tragedy shook students, faculty and other members of the Fordham Preparatory School community on the afternoon of Monday, Feb. 1, when a sophomore enrolled at the all-boys Jesuit high school in the Bronx took his life. The student, 16— whose name authorities had yet to release at the time The Globe went to press—was struck by a Metro- North commuter train traveling northbound through the Botanical Garden station, located less than a quarter mile from the school, at approximately 3:30PM, according to the MTA.

The student’s suicide is the second to strike the Fordham Prep community in less than a month. Owen Kelly—also a sophomore at the school—stepped in front of a train intentionally at the Philipse Manor station in Sleepy Hollow on Jan. 18, prompting administrators to offer special counseling for students and to schedule a meeting to teach school faculty to detect symptoms of depression in students. The administration also hired an expert on adolescent self- injury to counsel students and their parents.

Following the more recent death, there was, is and will continue to be police presence on the platforms of the Botanical Garden station during the periods when students arrive and depart from school.

The two tragedies have brought increased attention to what Columbia University Medical Center professor of psychiatry and epidemiology Madelyn Gould calls “youth suicide clusters,” which she says affect at least five communities in the United States annually. Most recently, particular scrutiny has fallen on the school district of Palo Alto, California—one of the nation’s most prestigious—where eight students have taken their lives since 2009—three of them in 2015. Many have pointed to the school’s high achieving, high stress, academic culture as the primary motive behind the suicides.

While some see links between incidents in the Palo Alto district and those that have occurred at Fordham, others have rebutted, arguing that the atmosphere at Fordham Prep is noncompetitive and “relatively relaxed,” according to the New York Times.

Yet, even before the spotlight shifted to Fordham, Mamaroneck administrators—prompted by events in California— began working to develop ways to address issues of stress and mental health in the MUFSD, specifically at the high school. A new MHS student- faculty organization, tentatively termed the “social emotional” committee, has been in the works since the beginning of this year and will aim to target harmful levels of stress (See page 10).

“Our hearts go out to our Fordham neighbors,” MHS Principal, Ms. Elizabeth Clain, said in a statement to The Globe, “We want to make sure our students at Mamaroneck High School know that at any time they can reach out to any adult in the building about concerns they have about a friend.”

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com

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