Flushing, NY: 60 junior high kids reportedly talked about suicide; lawmakers call it "a crisis"

Feb 22, 2020, New York Post: 60 kids at JHS 189 Daniel Carter School in Queens have talked suicide, principal says Kids aren’t talking about soccer or English class in the halls of JHS 189 in Flushing. They’re talking about killing themselves. Sixty students have expressed suicidal thoughts in the past year, Principal Magdalen Radovich told a recent gathering of nearly two dozen elected officials and community leaders. The Department of Education claimed Radovich “misquoted” the figure but refused to give The Post any data. None of the children made good on their threats, and parents were called in each case. But shocked local lawmakers are calling it a crisis. “If 60 kids on the Upper East Side talked about suicide, Mayor de Blasio would be there interjecting himself,” Assemblyman Ron Kim fumed of Hizzoner, whose wife, Chirlane McCray, has made mental health her signature cause. “Sixty … is a staggering number, but even one is too many,” said City Councilman Peter Koo, who attended the Feb. 7 legislative breakfast at the school along with Kim and Flushing Chamber of Commerce’s John Choe. Just the mention of the 60 cases — about 8% of Daniel Carter Beard School’s roughly 740 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders — sucked the oxygen out of the room, the men said…. Radovich brought up the figure after she asked for the group’s buy-in for a mental health and wellness center on campus. “She was trying to make the point that she had never seen anything like this in her years of being an educator,” Kim said. The principal went on to lay out all the efforts that JHS 189 is taking to deal with the crisis, Koo said — from student emotional health surveys and one-on-one meetings with families to an emoji mood meter and small-group talk sessions between students and staffers. In addition, according to the DOE, Radovich as well as the school’s assistant principals and guidance counselors have been trained in suicide prevention and students can talk with a social worker, a school psychologist or a consultant who works for ThriveNYC, the mental health program launched by McCray. “We have made unprecedented investments … to identify and prevent risk,” DOE spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon said in a statement. … But psychologist Yuanxia Zhang, who practices in Flushing, thinks the suicidal thoughts are more likely a symptom of bullying or a psychiatric disorder like depression. And he stresses that kids have been known to feign suicide threats to get attention. “They see one child get special attention or a special benefit — like time out of class to see a professional — and they want it, too.”