22 Apr Harvard-Westlake Counseling Resources
April 22, 2023
Dear Parents and Guardians,
As we process the recent loss of Jonah Anschell and continue to process the loss of Jordan Park, we want you to know that while our hearts are heavy, we are here for you and your students.
At times of extreme sadness and loss, it is more important than ever that our community comes together to support one another. With any kind of difficult news, children are likely to respond in a variety of ways. Grief is a normal and necessary response to loss and your child may be experiencing grief even if they did not directly know these students. It is also possible your child may not be affected by the news at all. No particular response is “right”, and we are sending this letter, in part, to help you feel supported in helping your child navigate whatever emotions may arise.
The counselors and deans at both the middle and upper school are prepared and available to help your student process this loss, as well as provide parents with any additional support that you need. We feel that the best way that you can support your student in the days ahead is to listen and provide comfort and safety.
- Teens who knew the student are at greatest risk, but anyone who is touched by the suicide is at an increased risk of suicidal behavior.
- Social media has increased the social connectedness of our children to each other, so your children may have “connections” to this student you have never met nor heard about. Be vigilant in participating in your child’s social media life.
- Tell your children explicitly that suicide can be prevented, and that telling someone if they feel bad is key.
- Please be sure to remind your children of the places where they may seek support for their emotional reactions both at home and at school.
- Make sure your child knows what to do if she is concerned about a friend. A student can always contact a teacher, her dean, Dr. Decker, Dr. Wasson, Ms. Bronson, Dr. McGraw, Ms. Bracken, or Kat Scardino, as well as any adult at school if there is a concern about a peer.
- Adolescents are at an increased risk for suicide for many reasons, but one of the main reasons is that they can act very impulsively. Thus, if you have any substances, medications, or weapons in your home that could be used for self-harm, now is the time to be extra vigilant that your children do not have access to them. Please put them away or lock them up.
- You may want to share suicide prevention resources with your child. Trusted providers include Suicide & Crisis Line call or text 988, Teen Line (call 800.852.8336 or text “teen” to 839863) or Crisis Text line (text “home” to 741741).
Click here to review a resource sheet for parents. Please remain vigilant for signs of increased risk for suicide and make sure that your child is aware of the following signs as well:
- Verbal threats of suicide
- Suicide notes
- Suicidal posting on social media sites (including indirect talk such as, “the world would be better without me.”)
- Previous suicide attempts
- A sense of hopelessness or helplessness
- Increased risk-taking or aggression
- Increased substance use or abuse
- Making final arrangements such as giving away possessions.
- Self-harming behavior such as “cutting” or unintentional self-harming behavior
- Changes in ability to focus or think
- Decline in school functioning like grades and social life
- Death or suicidal themes in writing or artwork
- Sudden changes in personality
We are also sensitive to the fact that we, as adults, can be navigating our own complex emotions in reaction to this news. Please be mindful that it can be helpful to process our own feelings first so that we can then be supportive and present for our children in the ways in which they need us.
Details about further plans will be communicated as they are scheduled.
If there is any way we can be helpful, if you have questions or comments about these recommendations, or concerns about your child please do not hesitate to reach out to any of the counselors (contact emails below) or your child’s dean.
The Counseling Team
Brittany Bronson firstname.lastname@example.org (middle & upper school)
Michelle Bracken email@example.com (upper school)
Dr. Kelly Decker firstname.lastname@example.org (middle school psychologist)
Dr. Tina McGraw email@example.com (upper school)
Kat Scardino firstname.lastname@example.org (upper school sport psychologist)
Dr. Sophie Wasson email@example.com (upper school psychologist