3rd suicide at Sydney-area middle schools prompts call for support

The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is asking the province for support services over the summer months, following the third student suicide this school year. The parents of a North Sydney 13-year-old say she was cyberbullied.

Parents of the 13-year-old want tougher consequences for bullies while school board seeks more help

Madison Wilson's parents say their daughter was outgoing and loved music. (Amylynn Wilson)

Students in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board are trying to cope with the third suicide this school year after a girl from North Sydney took her own life over the weekend.

Parents Chris Royal and Amylynn Wilson said their 13-year-old daughter Madison Wilson was "outgoing, loved her music and was always on her phone."

Exhausted and emotionally drained, Royal told reporters on Tuesday that Madison was cyberbullied and taunted by other students at Sydney Mines Middle School.

Amylynn Wilson says her daughter Madison was cyberbullied and taunted by other students at her school in Sydney Mines. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

Wilson and Royal said there need to be tougher consequences for bullies and more monitoring of children.

"They need more counsellors, more people in security, more ... lunch ladies out and about to watch the kids, to see the bullying," they said.

Wilson advised parents to pry more, demand the passwords and monitor their children's phones.

Support over summer months

Two students at Sherwood Park Education Centre in Sydney also took their own lives recently.

At its final meeting of the school year on Monday night, the board voted to write a letter of concern to Education Minister Zach Churchill and Premier Stephen McNeil.

Chair Darren Googoo said the letter will ask for support services to be available after the school year ends next week.

"I think that particular death prompted a need for us to say, 'How can we ensure that our students have access to services over the summer months?'" he said.

"We only provide services from September until June and we recognize that with the three deaths in one year, some of our students may be feeling like they need support during the summer months."

Board denies suicides are a crisis

When asked if there was a problem with bullying in the school board, Googoo said he thought that wasn't a fair question.

"I think bullying is not a problem that is confined to a particular segment of society. It occurs across all walks of life," he said. "It's a societal issue."

School board chair Darren Googoo says the CBVRSB wants mental health resources available to students over the summer. (Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board)

Googoo said he does not believe the suicides have caused a crisis for the board.

He said some students are in crisis, but he feels the board has adequate supports in place.

"The challenge is always going to be how you deploy the resources that you have."

Googoo said the focus now is on providing supports to students dealing with the effects of these deaths.

Department offers support

In an email, the province's Department of Education and Early Childhood Development said it has been in touch with the school board to offer additional support. It said help has also been enlisted from the Department of Health and Wellness and an expert in mental health issues.

If you are in distress or considering suicide, there are places to turn for support, including your doctor or Nova Scotia's Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team at (902) 429-8167. The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention also has information about where to find help.

With files from Gary Mansfield