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Students mourn sudden deaths of James River classmates

Posted at 2:19 PM, Dec 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-06 08:30:10-05

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Students at James River High School in Midlothian are in mourning after they learned Monday about the sudden weekend death of classmate Abigail Travis. Travis is the second James River student to die in as many months.

School administrators informed parents via email Sunday night.

"The family has requested that information about the cause of death not be shared at this time," the email to parents read. "We are aware that there have been rumors that this was a suicide death. Since the subject has been raised, we want to take this opportunity to remind our community that suicide, when it does occur, is a very complicated act. It is usually caused by a condition such as depression, which can prevent a person from thinking clearly about the problems in his or her life and how to solve them. Sometimes these conditions are not identified or noticed; other times, a person with a concern will show obvious symptoms or signs."

James River High School has made grief counselors available to all students for both individual and group counseling.

A second James River High School student died suddenly in November. That student and Travis were friends, according to classmates.

Anya Shaffer, with the Virginia Department of Health, provided some information on how to recognize when someone might be having a hard time and where to go for help:

Recognizing warning signs of suicide are key to directing people to the help that they need. The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention has a good summary of warning signs here.

If anyone is struggling or has a loved one who is struggling, they should call 911 or The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255. Trained counselors are available 24/7 to talk with either a person in crisis or their loved one about their options and available resources.

The Lifeline is a great resource for folks and the website has a wealth of information, as well as a link to a National Lifeline chatline.

Here is a link to the Virginia Suicide Prevention Resource Directory.

James River sophomore Genesis Morton said she sang in the choir with both classmates who passed.  Morton said the mood at school Monday morning was sad and quiet.  The line of students outside of the counselors office was long and constant, she said.

Two years ago, the now 16-year said she attempted suicide.  Morton credits talking with her mother about getting help for the place she is in her own life today.

"It's okay to be upset, it's okay to be mad. It's okay to feel the way your feel. We're human, it's not something wrong," said Morton, who mentioned she wanted to share her story so teens like her everywhere can hear it.  "No matter how bad a day is, there is another day coming. You never know how the next day will be, at all."