“He (didn’t) really show a lot of his emotions,” said Casperson. “Even it was a struggle to get him to go to therapy, but I’m like, ‘Dude. You’ve got to talk to someone.'”
Sam was a student at Blaine High School. Last January, whatever troubled him became too much for him to bear, and he took his own life.
Six weeks later, in February 2020, his girlfriend, Ashlyn Lee, a 16-year-old Spring Lake Park High School student, also took her own life.
Now her mother joins Casperson in having become an advocate and sounding board for those who are dealing with depression.
“Parents are scared,” said Ashlyn’s mother, Shannon. “Kids are nervous, and, somehow, we now have become the experts.”
The women say the continually receive social media messages from those who want to know how they can help their loved ones–or themselves–deal with depression that COVID-19 and isolation have only deepened. They also shared the frustration of teenagers and parents that schools may not be doing enough to help.
“They want more. They feel like they need more,” said Lee.
“We’re trying to figure it out as well,” said Casperson. “But it’s a matter of not even having the resources for what we need to do.”
State lawmakers can relate, as the budget talks re-ignite in St. Paul ahead of the new legislative session. Lee said she contacted Sen. Roger Chamberlain of Lino Lakes to talk about legislation he’s introduced to help address anti-bullying prevention needs and ways the schools can be more pro-active to try to stem the tide of suicides that has taken over Anoka County.
“While we recognize it’s not the school’s job to be mental health counselors for (teenagers), we have some ideas, maybe, and we’ve begun to reach out again to see what we can do with those things and act upon those things,” said Lee.
She said Sen. Chamberlain has asked both of them to speak at the State Capitol once it’s safe to allow visitors inside again.