Tag Archives: bullying

Preventing Suicides in School

University of Maine journalism student Kendra Caruso recently joined us for a Suicide Prevention Workshop both to learn about suicide and to gather information for a journalism assignment.  We’re pleased she decided to share her work with us!


Preventing Suicides in School–
Highlighting a growing problem prevalent in Maine schools.

by Kendra Caruso

Walter Boomsma is a substitute teacher for the Piscataquis Community Elementary School.  He has experienced firsthand the reality of suicide among the adolescent in the state of Maine, it’s why he teaches the Suicide Awareness and Prevention workshop that’s free for the public to attend but required for all school personnel.

LD 609 was enacted into law on April 25, 2013 and requires anyone who works for a school system in the state of Maine to receive comprehensive training on suicide prevention that’s research based, from bus drivers to teachers.  Boomsma’s two-hour class meets the state mandate.  The course he uses is a collaboration between the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

In Maine suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 34 year olds and 16.14 people die per 100000 residents compared to the national average of 13.26 in 2015 according to the CDC.

Boomsma talks about bullying as one of the leading causes of suicide among adolescents in his workshop and social media has made it easier for bullies to access their victims.  Boomsma talks about how to address a suicidal child being bullied.  Victims of bullying are two to nine times more likely to be suicidal than people who don’t experience bullying, according to a study by Yale University.

Hailey Cipullo of Abbot is an eighth grader at the Piscataquis Community Elementary School and has been the victim of bullying herself. She never experienced suicidal thoughts but lost a friend she went to a summer camp with to suicide because of bullying.  She didn’t even know her friend was experiencing suicidal thoughts.  Cipullo doesn’t blame herself for not realizing what her friend was going through.  Boomsma teaches not to self-blame for losing someone to suicide.

The LGBTQ community had a much higher risk for suicide ideation, 50 percent of bisexual youth experienced ideation and 25 percent attempted suicide, 40 percent of gay or lesbian youth experienced ideation and 21 percent attempted suicide, according to the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey in 2013.  Youth in the LGBTQ community are more likely to become suicidal if they are rejected by family.

Men are more likely to die from suicide but women experience ideation more, for one male attempt there are three female attempts.  Men are more likely to kill themselves using violent means where women tend to us less violent acts such as taking pills according to the NAMI and CDC course collaboration.

Native American youth are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts with an average of 17 per 100000 residents compared to 12.1 for the whole US according to the NAMI and CDC course collaboration.

Boomsma experienced the tragedy of suicide first hand when his brother ended his own life but that’s not why he teaches this class.  He teaches this class because of the affect suicide has on Maine’s youth.

Boomsma spends a few minutes after class when he gets home and thinks about how he may have trained someone who will save a life, “I think to myself, I may have saved a life tonight.”

You Are Not Alone!

This may not be your style of music… but it is another way to deliver a very important message.  “You are not alone.” Don’t politicize it. Watch and listen… see the woman crying and hear messages like “What is a day without night.”

Register for my next free Suicide Prevention Workshop!

Suicide prevention resources on this website.

For those who’ve been wondering…

By way of an update, after several emails I submitted the complaint in its entirety. Following some telephone tag, American Airlines offered an apology and compensation equal to about 25% of our ticket and expenses (over $2,000) due to the delay. They also indicated they were forwarding copies of my correspondence to the “appropriate management personnel.” While I still have my doubts that action will be taken against the offending employee, it’s a moral victory.  Lesson learned: when you are abused, complain–calmly but forcefully.  If possible, hit ’em in the pocketbook. Their hearts and minds may follow.


Several who have heard portions of the story have asked for details and posting here seems like a reasonable approach.  I like to think I’m a reasonable person. Travel is tough–particularly air travel in today’s environment. Mistakes happen, things get messed up. I’m a former “road warrior” and experienced traveler.   It takes a healthy dose of patience and perseverance to travel by air–especially these days. The emergency recent trip Janice and I made served as a great reminder of that. I have summarized a recent experience with the observation that security was not the issue.

Our recent return flights from Louisiana tested my patience for a number of different reasons–including the fact we returned home a day and a half later than scheduled. When I was traveling full-time you learned not only patience but problem-solving skills. Things were tolerable because airline employees were for the most part sympathetic and willing to treat travelers like customers.

Well, that’s changed. In the forty plus years I’ve traveled I met the rudest and most arrogant airline employee ever in Washington D.C.’s Reagan Airport.  Her attitude would be unacceptable and unbelievable if she was a gate agent. I nearly fell over when she informed me she was a supervisor. I tried to write up the encounter only to discover that American Airlines only allows comments with less than 2000 characters. I’m posting the full version for those who are interested in the story. I’m reasonably certain American Airlines won’t be. If I’m wrong, I’ll let you know! (The portions in italics had to be left out of the American Airlines version.)


By way of brief background, we had missed a connection in DFW on Sunday, July 30. Special Services there booked us on AA3590 and AA4693 for Monday, giving us boarding passes with seat assignments and assurance that we were “confirmed.” When we arrived the following morning those boarding passes “didn’t work” and we were issued new ones. The ones from DCA to BGR did not show a seat assignment and the gate agent told us to “get them in DCA.”

Upon arrival in DCA, I attempted to do as instructed. The gate agent said the flight was oversold and asked if we would give up our seats for a $500 voucher each. We explained we needed to get to BGR. He said he was “working on seat assignments.” Knowing the flight was oversold, I checked with him several times while waiting and got the same answer.

When the flight was boarding it became clear we had not been given seats and were being treated as standby passengers. At one point, we were invited to board, only to learn that one seat had been assigned twice. Since we had to travel together, we exited the plane. That was my first encounter with the primary reason for this complaint. I did not know who she was until later when I discovered that in addition to being a supervisor she is the rudest and most arrogant airline employee I have encountered in over forty years of travel. She was standing in the jetway screaming at the woman who took the last seat available, “RUN! You have to run if you want to be on this flight.”

When we returned to the gate desk, the agent was clearly totally lost. He was still trying to find a seat for another passenger! I assured her she was not going to make the flight. I said to the gate agent, “I would like an explanation of how we became standby passengers and how you plan to get us on a flight.”

Your supervisor said, “Sir, we do know what we’re going.” I replied, “Obviously you don’t or we’d be on this flight and you wouldn’t be telling another passenger she might get on.”

The supervisor said, “You need to go to Special Services.” I replied that I would need evidence of my ticket (laying on the desk). She said, “We can’t give you those.” When I asked how I would prove my ticket, she replied she’d meet me there.

At Special Services the agent said I needed both boarding passes. As I approached to the gate, the supervisor yelled at me, “I told you to go to special services and I would meet you there.” I replied that was obviously not true based on where she was standing (and doing nothing). I asked to speak to a supervisor and she told me “I AM the supervisor.” I attempted to see her name tag explaining, “Then I need a manager. What is your name?” She said, “I’ll give you my business card.” When I put my hand out for it, she said, “I’m not giving it to you now, we are trying to close out this flight.”

I reminded her that I am a customer and that in the amount of time she was spending arguing with me she could have given me both. She replied, “You can’t tell me what to do.”

I believe her name is either XXXX or XXXX. Your Special Services Agent quickly resolved the problem without the boarding passes or any assistance from your so-called supervisor. She also assisted me with meeting a manager who was quite gracious, but also insistent that she would “look into it” because “she is one of our best supervisors” and “we spend a lot of money on customer service training.”

Well, I’m a retired organizational consultant with a good crap detector. This is not a training issue—this is an employee with an attitude. I also observed her refusing to help an employee doing a wheelchair assist, sending her to special services. This is a short version since I’m only allowed 2000 characters.


So in the span of a few minutes, we went from being offered $1,000 to give up our seats to being treated like crap.  That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment, don’t you think? And–for those who enjoy irony–when I booked our original flights, on one leg there were only “more desirable” seats available so I was charged extra! 

Books and Balloons at River Festival

Coming soon… another year of fun at the Piscataquis River Festival in Guilford Maine, This is truly one of the best community events in the area… it’s really family friendly, affordable, and includes lots of free activities for the kids! I’m pleased to support it with an Abbot Village Press Booth where I’m joined by Valley Grange Bookworms.

This year you’ll find the in addition to the usual books and balloons I’m adding some resources regarding bullying and other issues kids are facing today… stop by and chat!

Valley Grange Bookworms will be helping distribute free balloons compliments of Valley Grange… Kids should be prepared to tell us how you are doing with your summer reading list!

Coffee Talks to Continue!

Our first Coffee Talk was a great success–we covered a lot of ground and agreed to continue the talks as a “series.” Please consider joining us… parents, teachers, kids… all are invited! We’re particularly interested in exploring ways our communities can support our kids as they face many of the issues raised in 13RW.

For those who may not know, Thirteen Reasons Why is the title of a book first published in 2007 and recently adapted to a Netflix Series. The story follows a fictional teenager named Hannah and, in short, how she shares her thirteen reasons for deciding to take her own life. For various reasons, the book and series have captured national interest with many believing the story “glorifies” suicide. Many young adults are reading the book (a New York Times best-seller) and watching the NetFlix series, while many parents are concerned about the messages youth are receiving.

One thing it does do is generate conversation and this informal discussion of the book and Netflix Series will tackle questions like

  • Do books and films like this glamorize suicide?
  • Were Hannah’s reasons for taking her life valid?
  • Why are young adults captivated by the book/film?
  • What does the book/film say about adults?
  • Should I read/see it if I haven’t?
  • For those who have read/seen it, how did it impact you?
  • and any questions or concerns you might have.

This is a free event with an opportunity to get the facts and discuss your concerns and questions around the story and issues young adults face. All are welcomed!

I have created a resource page for information on this topic and we will have additional material available at the Coffee Talk!


Coffee Talk will be held at the Guilford United Methodist Church, 3 School Street (across from the fire station), Guilford from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m.  For additional information:

Pastor Reeni Cipullo
Guilford United Methodist Church
(207) 876-3372

Walter Boomsma
Certified Youth Mental Health Specialist
(207) 343-1842

For Immediate assistance, contact the Maine Crisis Hotline.

Suicide Hotline #