'Humans don't want to die by suicide:' Searching for answers following the suicide of an 11-year-old
In 2022, 135 people died by suicide in North Dakota, and it is the second-leading cause of death for young people in the state.
FARGO — The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention North Dakota Chapter is working with Clara Barton Elementary School staff and students' families following the suicide of fifth-grader Nolan Wilson. The active nonprofit is providing research based resources and guides on how to talk about suicide.
When WDAY News told the heartbreaking story from Shushanna Perez-Noriega , Nolan's mother who wants more parental options for internet site access, she hopes the loss of her son helps families start the conversation about mental health, and keep the lines of communication open.
Perez-Noriega told WDAY her boy could hide his pain.
"The way he acted throughout the day, with your everyday interactions, that boy probably could have gotten an Oscar if he grew up to be an actor. He put on a good mask," she said.
As we reported on Wednesday night, Nolan had been in counseling following the death of his father. But recently, no red flags would indicate Nolan was considering suicide. However, following his death, a note in his school desk confirmed that he was suffering.
"Adults aren't the only ones that can put on a mask and a fake smile and get through the day, making everyone think like, 'oh, they're having a good day,' but deep down inside, we're suffering, we're struggling. (W)e carry our demons and our burdens," Perez-Noriega said.
Nolan had actually asked his mom recently about a relative who had died by suicide, wondering about the method used, but it was hardly an alarm.
Jeana Scheffler is a licensed therapist and director of clinical services at Prairie St. John's. She says that we need to remind each other that things will get better.
"Humans don't want to die by suicide, they want to end the pain that they're experiencing, and sometimes they need these constant reminders that things will get better and they will improve," Scheffler said. "Thoughts of suicide are complicated, but we have to be more OK with ourselves having those deep conversations, and exploring these things when we have the opportunity to do so."
Scheffler says the issue is never simple, and each case is different. Some plan for days. Others, like children, act on impulse.
Perez-Noriega is now pushing for more parental controls on computers that children have access to. Phone apps like Bark , alerts and notifies a parent when their child's social media and online activity raises red flags, looking for key words including "bullying" and "suicide."
Nolan's internet search that evening, moments later, led to his death. Now the family is just trying to put one foot in front of the other.
"You have to communicate what you're feeling inside, and it's okay. It's okay to not be strong," Perez-Noriega said.
Mental Health experts along with suicide prevention educators and others have provided valuable links and resources for families. If you or a loved one is in crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.