Student’s suicide mourned at Mill Creek school

  • Fri May 7th, 2010 10:21pm
  • News

By Eric Stevick Herald Writer

MILL CREEK — Ryan Ang excelled in many areas in his short life.

He was a loyal friend, a prolific artist and a student of style.

What he didn’t do as well was handle stress.

“He was dealing with a lot of depression, more than we realized,” said his sister, Elizabeth Ang. “He was really stressed out about school. It progressed over time. He was just so overwhelmed by so many different troubles. He took everyone’s pain onto himself.”

Ryan, 17, a junior at Henry M. Jackson High School, took his own life May 2 at his family’s home.

A funeral Mass is scheduled for noon today at Holy Rosary Church, 630 Seventh Ave. N., in Edmonds.

Ryan’s family got a good sense of how much classmates cared about him during a memorial service in the school’s commons after Thursday’s classes.

“There was so much support there,” Elizabeth Ang said. “It was amazing how many friends Ryan had.”

Extra counselors were on hand on Monday and Tuesday.That allowed Jackson’s counselors to be more visible in the hallways, classrooms and cafeteria for students who might need help, said Becky Ballbach, an Everett School District administrator who works closely with counselors.

Terry Cheshire, Jackson’s principal, informed parents in a letter on Monday that a student had died as a result of suicide.

“We are all shocked and saddened by this event,” Cheshire wrote.

Students were encouraged to write messages on large trifold poster boards in the school’s cafeteria and express their grief through art with chalk on the sidewalks.

Thursday’s memorial, which included a slide show, brought together many of Ryan’s friends, classmates, teachers and fellow art students.

Elizabeth Ang said she will most remember that her brother smiled a lot and was “warm hearted to everyone, to anyone he met.”

“The funny thing was, he stole — I should say, migrated — he migrated my friends into his own friends,” she said.

Ryan took to art from the first time he picked up a Crayola at the age of 3, she said. He loved drawing portraits of people. He wanted to attend the Art Institute in Seattle and eventually pursue architecture, comic books or gaming.

“He was very mature, yet still naive, a teenager growing up,” Elizabeth said. “He had the support of my whole family behind him.”

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It claimed the lives of 4,405 people between the ages of 10 and 24 in 2006, according to national statistics.

“Ninety percent of people who die by suicide have a psychological disorder at the time of their death, most often depression,” said Dr. Paula Clayton, medical director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in New York.

Clayton said one of the most important things a young person can do if they feel depressed is to talk with an adult.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com.

Where to go for help

In Snohomish County, a free 24-hour help line is available for anyone dealing with mental health problems or who is feeling suicidal. Call Care Crisis Response Services at 800-584-3578.

Aso, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK.

Signs of depression

Parents should be aware of the following signs in their children, which could be symptoms of depression or suicidal thoughts:

  • A change in eating and sleeping habits

    Drug and alcohol use

    Withdrawal from friends, family and regular activities

    Violent actions, rebellious behavior or running away

    Unusual neglect of personal appearance

    Marked personality change

    Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating or a decline in the quality of schoolwork

    Frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.

    Loss of interest in pleasurable activities

    Not tolerating praise or rewards

    Source: American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry