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Arlington family shares pain of daughter’s suicide to educate others how to help

An Arlington parent who lost a daughter to suicide has helped organize a series of forums on suicide among youths.

  • Jessica Frable, an Arlington High School valedictorian and top grad at WSU, was only 22 when she died by suicide.

    Jessica Frable, an Arlington High School valedictorian and top grad at WSU, was only 22 when she died by suicide.

  • Jessica Frable, an Arlington High School valedictorian and top grad at WSU, was only 22 when she died by suicide.

    Jessica Frable, an Arlington High School valedictorian and top grad at WSU, was only 22 when she died by suicide.

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By Gale Fiege
Herald Writer
Published:
  • Jessica Frable, an Arlington High School valedictorian and top grad at WSU, was only 22 when she died by suicide.

    Jessica Frable, an Arlington High School valedictorian and top grad at WSU, was only 22 when she died by suicide.

  • Jessica Frable, an Arlington High School valedictorian and top grad at WSU, was only 22 when she died by suicide.

    Jessica Frable, an Arlington High School valedictorian and top grad at WSU, was only 22 when she died by suicide.

ARLINGTON -- She and her twin sister were valedictorians in the Class of 2005 at Arlington High School.
She didn't do drugs, suffer from depression nor endure bullies. Her family was stable and loving, her friends loyal and fun. She graduated with honors from Washington State University and had just begun a challenging master's program at the University of Washington.
No one would have guessed she was troubled.
On the night of Sept. 24, 2009, JJ Frable and her husband got a call that their daughter Jessica, then 22, had taken her own life.
"We couldn't comprehend how this horrific tragedy could have happened," Frable said. "She was just gone and we were left with a grief that never stops."
Telling the story, Frable swallows hard and her voice cracks.
"Over the course of a few days, Jessie evidently spiraled into a storm of anxiety and panic after a negative experience in an accounting internship and stress during the first week in her master's program. She was frightened. She couldn't pull herself out. Jessie had never failed at anything."
Frable is part of the Arlington High School Booster Club organizing committee that has presented a series of community forums about suicide among young people, from middle school students through college graduates. The series continues tonight at the high school.
"We don't want other families to go through this experience. Telling Jessie's story is a matter of getting people's attention," Frable said. "If we as a community can spare even one kid from this pain, then it's all worth it."
Since Jessica's death, the Frable family has learned that suicide is the third leading cause of death among those 19 through 24, and that a young person can become suicidal quickly and impulsively.
"We spend a lot of time teaching them to drive, to balance a checkbook, but perhaps not enough on how to handle the tough things in life," Frable said.
Young minds can easily be overtaken by the idea that when faced problems there's only one way out, and that the world is never going to get better, said Frable's friend Wendy McClure, who is heading up the forums.
Young people need to know that everybody makes mistakes and that those mistakes should not define who people are, McClure said.
The booster club began talking about offering the suicide awareness series last year after another young person from the Arlington community died by suicide. Frable, who has always been active in the booster and other parent clubs, stepped forward to tell her daughter's story.
Arlington doesn't have a greater suicide rate than the rest of the county, said Dr. Gary Goldbaum of the Snohomish Health District. The most recent figures available are from 2009 when the health district counted six suicides -- all boys -- in the 15-19 age group countywide.
"There are suicides in this county every year among youths," Goldbaum said. "Probably we under-count them. There well may be suicides disguised as motor vehicle crashes. Probably most of these accidents were unintended, but we don't know."
Recently released results from the state's Healthy Youth Survey showed that from 2008 to 2010, fewer high school seniors in Snohomish County planned or attempted suicide.
However, 20 percent of sophomores in the county reported that they considered suicide and 8 percent said they attempted suicide, the study showed.
Tenth-graders are under a lot of stress, said Dr. Ray Hsiao, who works in Seattle Children's Hospital's behavioral health program. Sophomores are learning to drive, high school seems like it will stretch on forever, and it's also the time when many teens begin using drugs or abusing alcohol.
"There is a clear linkage between illicit substance abuse and suicide," Hsiao said.
Tonight's forum deals specifically with the part that alcohol and drugs play in suicides among youth. Information from the first forum on March 30 will be available tonight. Included are materials that outline things adults can do to promote better self-esteem among young people, along with lists of resources for help.
Each of the remaining forums addresses a reason a teen might commit suicide. On Thursday, the topic is bullying. On May 25, depression and anxiety attacks will be discussed and on May 26, the topic is abusive relationships.
"The reason we want everybody to come out to the forums is that all adults, not just parents, can make a difference in the lives of kids," McClure said. "People don't like to talk about suicide, but it could be a smile or a brief conversation that prevents a death."
JJ Frable hopes hundreds of people from around the county turn out to learn more about suicide.
"It' so abnormal to lose a child. It's difficult on birthdays, Christmas and Mother's Day," Frable said. "When the bond with a child is suddenly severed, the pain is enormous. The owner's manual never said our kids would be vulnerable to this."
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.


Breaking the Silence: Arlington Youth Suicide Awareness Forums
For adults only. A program for high school students is planned for the fall.
Admission is free and child care is free.
7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Byrnes Performing Arts Center, 18821 Crown Ridge Blvd.
Tonight: Abuse of Alcohol, Street and Prescription Drugs
Thursday: Bullying and Violence -- Its Forms and Effects
May 25: Self-esteem, Depression, Panic Attacks and Expectations
May 26: Abusive or Violent Relationships -- Dating, Family or Friends
Speakers for the series include Robert Malphrus, who oversees the drug counselor training program at Skagit Valley College; Shanna Kortendick, the intervention specialist at Arlington High School; Leslie Brent, a Cocoon House program manager; Heather Carter, who works in suicide prevention programs for gay and lesbian youth; Samuel Capetillo, who works with teens in the foster care system; Lynn Lewis of United Way; Greg Erickson, Arlington parent and Marysville athletic director; Vicci Hilty, with Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County; and Dawn Rutherford, teen advocate for Sno-Isle Libraries.
More information: 360-435-2143.

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