By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
The end of the school year brings joy for many as the weather and time with family and friends brings a much-needed rest from a long school year. Two recent tragedies reflect the concern with youth suicide. As friends, family, and teachers mourn and grieve the losses, one wonders about the reasons for someone to take their own life.
Christopher “AnhKhoi” Nguyen passed away on April 27. The senior from Cascade High School in Everett, Wash. was only 18 years old and was to graduate this spring. He was a member of the National Honors Society and took college-level courses at Everett Community College. He was going to attend the University of Washington with enough credits to be a sophomore with the intention of entering the pre-engineering program.
He was an avid community volunteer and was a role model to his brothers and friends. In addition, he loved photography, technology, and innovation.
According to a memorial page set up for Nguyen, he passed away at his childhood home of an apparent suicide. It is not known why Nguyen decided to end his life. Attempts to contact his school and representatives for the family were not returned. One might assume that the healing process is continuing, and the lack of a response may be due to the fact that no one wants to speak about what happened or have to explain to an outsider the pain they feel from their loss.
Izabel Laxamana jumped from a freeway overpass in Tacoma on May 30. The 13-year-old left several suicide notes to her family, according to Tacoma Police Department Public Information Officer Loretta Cool. In an e-mail reply, Cool stated that the King County Medical Examiner ruled the death a suicide. Online rumors claimed that Laxamana had committed suicide due to a YouTube video, which her father posted as punishment. In the video, he had her hair cut. More rumors indicated that she was bullied at school. “Though there was a controversial video of her father disciplining her, to date, there is no evidence of abuse, bullying, or prior knowledge of suicide ideations,” stated Cool.
According to spokesperson for the Tacoma Public School District, Elle Warmuth, the school district had turned over the investigation to Tacoma Police and Warmuth indicated that the matter was “still under investigation.”
Laxmana attended Giaudrone Middle School in Tacoma.
The Laxamana story has been skewed due to online speculation and rumor. According to a further statement from Dan Voelpel, Public Information Director of the Tacoma Public School District, once the middle school Principal for Laxamana became aware of the video, they contacted Child Protective Services. A report was made and Laxamana received counseling support at school.
After news of her death, a crisis response team was dispatched to Laxamana’s middle school, as well as other Tacoma schools where students and staff had a connection to Laxamana. On Monday, June 1st, the first school day after Laxamana’s passing that previous Saturday, approximately 150 students at Laxamana’s school met with crisis counselors.
The statement denied rumors that Giaudrone staff members may have “shamed” Laxamana centering around her not being allowed to run for an ASB office due to lack of parental permission. They also denied any knowledge that she was harassed, intimidated, or bullied by any student at her school.
It’s not clear to investigators, family, or friends why Nguyen or Laxamana decided to commit suicide. The most recent study on Asian Americans and suicide reflect that it is the second leading cause of death for Asian Americans aged 15to 34. While the study may be showing its age as the data was compiled in 2007, the factors for suicide may still resonate with the Asian American community. Professor Stanley Sue, who is a Professor of Clinical Psychology at Palo Alto University, indicated that Asian Americans are less likely to self-disclose their personal problems. They are also less likely to take advantage of mental health services. Instead, they would rely on their cultural traditions of discipline and family order as a way to solve problems. Locally, the Asian Counseling and Referral Services is just one of the outlets that can assist those in need of help.
“We see youth 5 years old to those still in high school activities,” stated ACRS Clinical Supervisor Jennifer Kreuger. She indicated that some of those involved in high school may be over the age of 18 due to a variety of reasons. Kreuger stated that it has 320 active cases which there are children in crisis. ACRS provides year-round assistance to the Seattle, Highline, Kent, Renton, and Bellevue school districts. “We encourage people to pay attention and to connect to resources,” Kreuger advised of how people could become aware of youth that might be contemplating suicide. “People end their life not necessarily because they want to die, but because they believe that they do not have other choices.” (end)
For more information, contact www.acrs.org.
Jason Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.