TULSA, Okla. — An Oklahoma mother mourns the loss of her son after she said his cry for help came too late.
The 15-year-old boy expressed thoughts of suicide in a school writing assignment, which his parents said they never knew about until he was gone.
The tragedy brings to light the systemic problem of teen suicide.
Melissa Silagyi shuffled through pictures of her son, Nate. She reminisced on the funny and sweet personality her son embodied. Those pictures mean so much more now. Nate's life, captured in photographs, now brings a significant issue to the forefront.
"She was far from the only mother that lost a child to suicide in the Edmond community in recent months," Ben Felder, a reporter with The Frontier, said.
Felder uncovered the story of the lack of mental health training within school districts in Oklahoma when concerned parents reached out to him for help.
Although Silagyi declined an on-camera interview with 2 Works for You, she said teen suicide is an issue that needs a spotlight after Nate took his own life in November 2019. She said his decision left her searching for answers.
"She came across her son's phone, and on it was a document… a school paper that he had written," Felder said.
Nate wrote the paper three months before he died, titled "Running Out of Reasons." The essay was for an AP English class at Edmond North High School with the assignment to write about a challenging experience.
"She read the paper, and what alarmed her was that he wrote about having thoughts of suicide," Felder said.
The Frontier reporter began digging deeper when Silagyi expressed concerns about why the contents of Nate's paper were never reported to his parents.
Felder found before Nate died by suicide, his teacher held a parent-teacher conference where she said she expressed concerns for Nate to his parents.
"She had said that she felt like he was kind of troubled or kind of had a dark soul," Felder recalled.
What Nate's mother said the teacher didn't mention were the paper and suicide.
Felder said he began looking into the duty the school had to report Nate's ideations in his paper and found educators are required by state law to tell parents of a student's expression of suicidal thoughts.
According to the school, Nate's teacher honored her mandated duty to report. However, the Silagyis disagree and filed a lawsuit against Edmond Public Schools for negligence.
Edmond Public Schools sent this statement to 2 News.
"Edmond Public Schools is aware that a petition has been filed and we have obtained a copy. However, the district has not been formally served with the court papers, so the case has yet to go forward. The petition has been forwarded to the district’s attorney and insurance company for review. It is our practice to not comment on pending litigation. A formal response will be filed and publicly available through the court process."
Felder's reporting also revealed at least seven students died by suicide in the Edmond community within the last 15 months.
"It seemed like even in a large district like Edmond that seven recent suicide deaths were alarming, but also fit with the trend across the state," Felder said.
Youth suicide rates increased across the nation by about 40 percent over the last several years.
In Oklahoma, twice that, with a 100 percent increase, according to the state's Youth and Young Adult Suicide Report.
While several factors contribute to the rising youth suicide rates in the state, mental health officials told the Frontier one of the state's most significant challenges is the lack of a mandate for educators and students receiving suicide prevention training.
However, within just the last two weeks, that's begun to change.
Governor Kevin Stitt signed legislation requiring school districts to provide suicide awareness and prevention training to teachers and staff every two years.
For Silagyi, it's a step in the right direction. She said she wanted her son's life to matter. Mattering meant in the aftermath of her son's death; the change would be made to prevent future suicide.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 1-800-273-8255 if you are experiencing thoughts of suicide or mental distress.
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