CUSD student’s suicide prompts parents’ plea | News

By Ken Sain, GSN Staff Writer
8 Min Read

South Chandler residents Gene and Taryn Lower said they did everything they could to save their 16-year-old son Ryder.

“That’s the hardest thing,” Gene said. “We don’t blame ourselves or each other. We do know that we tried everything.”

Ryder, a junior at Arizona College Prep High School, died by suicide on Aug. 11. It is the second straight year that a Chandler Unified School District student died by suicide in the opening weeks of a new school year.

Taryn and Gene said they have sought help for their son for two years, seeing different doctors and reaching out for help. They also helped Ryder change schools.

Ryder was an excellent athlete, his parents said. Any sport he tried, he was instantly good at. He settled on lacrosse as his favorite and was starting to earn interest by college recruiters.

His parents said Ryder, who had good grades, was interested in attending college in the eastern United States, where most of the top college lacrosse programs are.

Ryder also had no problem speaking before big crowds. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 8, and soon after became an ambassador for a diabetes support group, speaking to scores of people at a time about living with the disease.

“I remember I gave him a shot in the hospital, and I mean I just jammed that needle in, thinking that’s what you’re supposed to do,” Taryn said. “I had no idea.

“At 8 years old, he was like, ‘Mom, that’s it! You don’t get to do this anymore. He came out of the hospital … and started giving himself insulin and never let anybody else do it.”

The trouble for Ryder started after he entered high school but eventually the Lowers had to admit their son to inpatient care.

Once that ended, he had intensive outpatient care that were about three hours for four days a week.

At home, no topic was off the table.

Gene and Taryn said they spoke to their son about suicide and let him know he could tell them anything.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that suicide is the second highest cause of death for people 10-to-24 years of age.

Statistics are only available through 2021, when it reached a high of 10.7 suicides per 100,000 people in that age group. It was at 7.8 per 100,000 in 2001.

That same upward trend in the same age group has been reported for Arizona by the state Department of Health Services.

To address the mental and emotional challenges that often can lead a teenager to contemplate suicide, the Chandler Unified School District held a ribbon cutting last week for the Hope Institute on the campus of Perry High School.

The Ohio-based center is expanding and this is its first joint venture with a school district in the United States.

The Hope Institute is a short-term care facility. Its goal is to get students in need in quickly and address their needs in the short-term. A Hope Institute representative said its staff generally will work with a student for no longer than six weeks.

Once the student’s short-term needs are met, CUSD plans to help families get care through longer term agencies, such as Southwest Behavioral Health or Lighthouse Wellhealth.

The Hope Institute will be available to all CUSD students and the district will help families obtain state funds to pay for treatment.

Brenda Vargas, the district’s director of counseling and social services, told the CUSD Governing Board that 395 district students had considered suicide between July 2022 and January 2023.

That came after three students took their lives in May 2022 and another one followed soon after the last school year started.

The district hopes The Hope Institute will turn that tide.

The Lower family said they want some good to come from their son’s death.

First, at least 30 people benefited in some way from his organs and tissues.

The family also wants to raise awareness about the rise in teen suicide and has an idea on where to start that emerged as Taryn thought: “I wish those that are close to him, or whomever, friends, girlfriends, whoever, maybe would sometimes have the courage to say something. And that is what we are missing.”

“I think you kind of gave me a light bulb,” Gene said, speaking generally about what families might consider.

“Maybe the suggestion is not for parents to sit down with their kids and discuss it, but to sit down with a group of parents and say, ‘You’re with your kid, your best friend’s, close friend, you have a group of people together and maybe make a pact between the parents with the kids, saying, ‘if you see something here, something, anything, don’t be afraid to speak up.’”

Taryn said Ryder did not have a wide circle of friends and they are certainly not blaming them, saying his best friend is hurting right now.

But in general, they feel teens spend too much time on their phones and it’s too easy to escape to the virtual world when they might encounter something awkward or difficult in the real world.

They want those teens to feel safe coming forward and say, ‘Your son’s not doing well right now. He’s going through a bad breakup.’

Perhaps the best way to deal with this rise in teen suicides is to make sure all teens feel safe coming forward when they see an issue, the Lowers said.

Gene and Taryn are trying to recover. They recently dropped their daughter, Skye, off in Florida to start college.

“We’re trying to make life as normal for her for her new start,” Gene said.

Recovery will take time. The family’s dog, Rocky, would wait by the door at night for Ryder to come home, usually from lacrosse practice.

“I’ve been noticing, my wife goes to bed before me, I’ll go to bed and he will just lay right where he is now waiting for him.”

By Ken Sain, GSN Staff Writer

2023-09-07 07:00:00 , – Vivrr Local Results in news of type article

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