UNITY — Regional School Unit 3 will host a suicide prevention forum Thursday, to increase awareness following the death of Kitty McGuire, a sixth-grade student who committed suicide in March.
Superintendent Heather Perry said Thursday’s discussion comes on the recommendation of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which often works with schools to distribute information on suicide and its prevention. She said that some parents in the school district had also requested the discussion.
“The recent suicide in our community is still an issue. We are still in the grieving process and it is one way to help work through that process,” said Perry.
In the wake of the suicide, family members and students from the school district organized a protest outside Mount View Middle School, where McGuire was a sixth-grade student, alleging that bullying was a factor in her death and that the school had done little to address it.
Some students were also upset they were not allowed to openly grieve for McGuire, said Tori Strain, 16, a sophomore at Mount View High School, on Monday.
But she said that since last week’s protest the school district has done everything possible to help their student body in the aftermath of the suicide, including holding assemblies at the high school last week to address any feelings students might have.
“We haven’t forgotten Kitty, but people are starting to move on,” said Strain.
She said that although she was unhappy with the way the school district handled the suicide at first, they have done everything possible to address problems since the protest last week.
“We wouldn’t be having these assemblies or discussions if people hadn’t complained,” she said. “I don’t think it was handled well at the beginning but in the long term everything is good now.”
She said that bullying remains a problem at Mount View Middle School but that people are more conscious of it.
“I think more people stop and think before they speak,” she said. “And they’re less afraid to report things to the principal or superintendent.”
The school district is working with the National Association on Mental Illness, community leaders and parents to host Thursday’s discussion, which will include presentations by Waldo County Hospice, MidCoast Mental Health and local clergy, said Perry.
The forum is open to the public and will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at Mount View High School’s Clifford Performing Arts Center.
Having such discussions can help people work through their concerns and give them access to information they might not know about, said Carrie Horne, assistant director of the Maine division of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“The goal is to provide resources and ideas on how to approach the grief process and get through it,” she said.
The district is also continuing to offer counseling services for parents, students and faculty and is planning more workshops and discussions, including an anti-bullying workshop, for later in the spring, said Perry.
“I find it encouraging that they are looking for some solutions,” said Tim McGuire, Kitty McGuire’s uncle, on Monday. He said he has spoken with parents at the middle school who have said bullying remains a problem there.
“I think it needs to be discussed and more needs to be done,” he said.
Allegations about bullying as a cause of McGuire’s death are still under investigation, said Perry.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368