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Del Oro responds with counseling, support in wake of suicide

By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Editor
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Del Oro High School’s staff, students and parents were reeling after learning of the tragic suicide death of freshman Hannah Olson on Jan. 5.
 
Del Oro staff responded to the tragedy by bringing counselors, chaplains and grieving students and their families together at the school on Tuesday, the day before classes resumed after the holiday break.
 
Assistant Principal Paul Lundberg said the school contacted Hannah’s friends at Del Oro and 25 students and two of her teachers, along with school counselors and members of Placer County Law Enforcement Chaplaincy came together for two hours.
 
He said students were able to write notes to Hannah’s family and write messages or draw pictures on a large scroll of paper that will be given to her family.
 
On Wednesday, as students returned from the holiday break, chaplains and counselors were on campus for any students who needed assistance. Lundberg also said that trained student peer helpers were on campus connecting with grieving students.
 
Del Oro principal Dan Gayaldo said the school’s immediate concern was to help students with the healing process.
 
The school also sent an email to parents informing them of the suicide and included information on suicide risk factors, warning signs and what action can be taken. 
 
Gayaldo said, “An event like this impacts kids in all different ways.”
 
Farren said, “Right now, we are about taking care of each other.”
 
Carol Parker, with Placer County Law Enforcement Chaplaincy, was at Del Oro on Wednesday to meet with students.
 
“The topic of teen suicide is now on the table here. It can be discussed,” Parker said.
 
Gayaldo said, “The conversations should start at home and continue at school.”
 
Del Oro parent Jackie Euer said, “This is just so tragic and upsetting.”
 
She said she has told her son Louie, a sophomore, “Everyone needs kindness, everyone needs respect. You have a responsibility to reach out to others, to notice if you think someone needs help.”
 
Chaplain Julie Robinson, who was on campus, said many people are afraid if they talk to kids about suicide that they are planting the seed of considering it.
 
Gayaldo said school counselors deal with students every year who may be having suicidal thoughts. 
 
“It’s always out there. Kids are suffering,” he said.
 
He said the school works to get the students the help they need. 
 
He said the number of students with suicidal thoughts has gone up in the last two years. He said he attributes it to students experiencing more stress at home.
 
Del Oro counselor Terry Barker said, “There are a lot of families in crisis – losing their homes, divorce – kids aren’t talking about it with their families. Parents need to know it’s OK to talk about their crises with their children and let them know what the plan is.”
 
In the wake of the tragedy, Gayaldo said his staff is encouraging students to be kind to themselves and each other and to take care of each other.