Scott Hammersmith made the Defiance High School varsity baseball team, and the 16-year-old sophomore was trying to secure a starting spot on the mound. His wish was to one day pitch professional baseball. In the meantime, Scott garnered As in school, enjoyed popularity and was an ideal oldest child, despite occasional moodiness.
“He was every mother’s dream,” recalled Sherri Hammersmith, Scott’s mother.
“He wouldn’t even drink pop because he didn’t want caffeine in his body,” added the Defiance, Ohio, mother of three. “He took care of himself. He really did. And there were no signs.”
There were no signs of the nightmare apparently playing out in Scott’s head and his journal, where the scholar athlete detailed struggles with the label of overachiever and feeling far from perfect. On a beautiful and sunny April day, after a baseball game, Scott committed suicide. He left a note expressing love and regret to his family, and his journal – found days later by his parents – told of his torment.
Suicidal attempts and thoughts among high school students are raising alarms throughout northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.
In Defiance County – where the 2012 County Health Assessment report shows 18% of high school students considered suicide and 7% attempted it – Hammersmith sought a way to help others after Scott died.
Hammersmith started the annual One Step At A Time 5k Run and Walk in Defiance in 2011 to raise money for teen depression awareness and suicide prevention efforts. Some money benefits the Four County Suicide Prevention Coalition, which serves Defiance, Fulton, Henry, and Williams counties.
“I can’t let this go,” Hammersmith said. “I don’t want kids out there and parents out there feel no one wants to help them.”
The Lucas County Suicide Prevention Coalition is among several northwest Ohio groups working to raise awareness. Lenawee County has a task force that meets monthly to deal with teen suicide and bullying.
ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital’s pediatric psychiatric unit treats children as young as 6 from northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, although typically depression and suicidal thoughts are not problems among such young patients, said Marianne Thomas, RN, unit director.
Adolescents are facing more pressures, such as having sex at an early age or anxiety about substance abuse, and that is compounded by splintered families offering less support, Thomas said. Those engaging in self-injurious behaviors, such as cutting, are at higher risk of suicide, she said.
Bullying can lead to suicide attempts as well, Thomas explained.
“Kids are more sensitive to what’s going on in their environment, both at school and what’s going on at home,” she said.
For more information about the annual One Step At A Time 5k Run and Walk in Defiance, please visit www.onestepatatime5krunwalk.com/