Memo: Death Of Second Newton Teen This Month

Update: 10/25/13:  Katherine Stack’s death was due to “asphyxia by hanging” according to Terrel Harris, a spokesman with the Executive Office of Public Safety & Security Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The state won’t comment further beyond the manner and means of her death, Harris said.

Update, 10/22/13: “The cause of death for Katherine Stack was determined to be suicide,” according to an email from Terrel Harris, a spokesman with the Executive Office of Public Safety & Security Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

It’s another horrible tragedy in Newton.

Newton South (Wikimedia Commons)

Newton South (Wikimedia Commons)

Authorities say the death of teenager Katherine Stack, a sophomore at Newton South High School, “is not suspicious and there is no foul play.” And while no one has uttered the word “suicide,” it’s no doubt on the minds of many students, parents and administrators today, following the death earlier this month of Newton North High School senior Karen Douglas. (Her death was described by her sister as a “suicide” on Reddit.)

Here’s a letter from Newton Superintendent of Schools David Fleishman to the community:

October 17, 2013

Dear Newton Community,

It is with great sadness that I am writing to inform you that Katherine Stack, a Newton South sophomore, died unexpectedly last night. Authorities have stated that the death is not suspicious and there is no foul play.

Our thoughts are with Katie’s family during this very difficult time. It is hard to imagine what they are going through right now.

The death of any young person is a terrible tragedy. This loss is compounded by the recent death of a Newton North student, Karen Douglas. Please know that we will have counselors available at our secondary schools, as we know that many of our students will have heard about this news through friends and social media. If you have any concerns about your child/children, please make contact with their guidance counselor and they will make sure to follow up. Processing two sudden deaths within a short time frame is very difficult to comprehend so we have provided some information below that you may find helpful.

Next Monday, October 21st we have scheduled a community forum in the Newton South Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. to help process these two recent tragedies. The Riverside Trauma Center has been a terrific resource for us during difficult times. Dr. Larry Berkowitz and Joanna Bridger will share important information about how to talk with your child/children about a sudden death and how to support your child/children and yourself following tragic events. The Mayor and other city and school leaders will join me at this forum.

I fully recognize that this is a very trying time for the City of Newton. I am hopeful that together, we will provide the support, care and kindness necessary to move forward. Please let any Newton Public Schools’ staff member know if we can be of help to you and your family.

Sincerely,

David Fleishman
Superintendent of Schools

http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/terror_general.aspx

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also provides guidance on how adults can help children after a traumatic event at this website: http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content//SMA12-4732/SMA12-4732.pdf

Dr. Robert Evans, Psychologist and School Consultant, offers five guidelines that can make a positive difference for children after tragic events. Visit this link for more information: http://www3.newton.k12.ma.us/sites/default/files/users/176/helpingchildrencopewithtragicloss.pdf

Riverside Mobile Crisis Intervention (781-769-8674) can also be called if you have concerns about the safety of your child.

For an additional resource, here’s our post from psychiatrists at Massachusetts General Hospital on how to cope with the overwhelming grief of a teenager’s suicide. And this from Temple Beth Avodah in Newton to its community:

Screen shot 2013-10-17 at 7.30.33 PM

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Dell Conagher

    I know Sean, nice kid. This shouldn’t have happened

  • Anon

    She was the most beautiful, wonderful, most amazing girl i have ever met. I was very close to her and i am absolutly crushed beyond words that she is gone.

  • Newton Mom

    My heart aches for these girls, everyone within their sphere-including the strangers who’ve posted here, and those who process this news in silence and denial. Upon the death of my amazing grandfather, I lost my entire family to Substance abuse and, from the age of seven, spent my life in foster homes where I nearly died of Neglect in one, and of Abuse in another. By my teens, living in Hell was the norm, and I used the gifts that my grandfather had left me to remain upbeat and optimistic, regardless of what happened. As my last foster mother’s mental illness deteriorated to the point of physical attacks in the middle of the night, it was a protracted period of Sleep Deprivation that finally left me without my usual resources, and made Death look like a viable option, ironically enough. I will never forget the day in my sixteenth year that I went to the top of a tall building with the sole purpose of jumping off, and ending the physical and mental pain. I’m writing this because one moment before that irrevocable jump, I realized that none of the pain was mine, but that of others foisted upon me. The certain image of my awful foster mother (a consummate actress who’d convinced all that my accounts of her behavior were lies-even my trusted teachers) feigning grief at my death and using it to her advantage was the very thing that made me stop and realize that I had a reason to keep going, if only to gain control of my journey and ‘stop the crazy’. Throughout that nightmare, my love of people and Education was my distraction, and I leveraged that success to take control. As my family’s roots are in Newton my husband and I bought our home here, and our son is making his way as a Newton North student, surrounded by good teachers and friends. He’s also been raised in a home culture of Honesty, Empathy, and Unconditional love, where there is nothing that we can’t get through as a team. As a consultant, my ‘pro bono’ work supports people of all ages from elementary school through college to help them recognize their intrinsic value, and remind them that their presence is required on this earth, despite the ‘messages’ they may be receiving via the sometimes seemingly insurmountable variables of being Human today.
    Today, as I share my journey with my son, I am so grateful for the memories of Goodness that quite literally pulled me from the precipice,and the life that I’ve led since. I beg all of you to look beyond the ‘stuff’ and bull that occupies our attention these days, and get to WHO YOU ARE as a valuable person, which is all that ultimately matters. No matter how much things may suck today, know that it will pass, and that your presence is required. Love to you all.

    • Cythina Lang

      You are so lucky to have had the rock of your grandfather in your life! God bless him and you!

  • Nathan Daniel Roeseler

    The “book” responses I’ve seen to some of the replies on some of the stories about this just make me sad..

    Why is it so hard to just open up.. if someone makes a reply on here about knowing these girls.. or expresses feelings of sorrow, grief, or being afraid.. why can’t you just talk to them.. We all should remember the feelings of being their age.. the way we felt it was easier sometimes to talk to a stranger about our issues over our own friends and family…

    Just talk to them.. To all those in shock.. let me share something personal.. I almost took my own life day.. I’ll tell you why..
    When I was 19.. I lost my fiance in a car accident (7 years ago yesterday)..she was driving home from visiting me.. my heart literally stopped beating when I got the news.. my world was shattered.. prior to that moment, I was one of the happiest people alive.. ONE moment CAN change your life in the direction of suicide.. it weighed heavy on me to just step off that branch afterwards and let gravity and a belt do the rest.. ONE moment in my life went wrong.. I didn’t have a mental illness.. no life long depression.. no drugs (EVER).. that’s all it takes.. ONE moment of a blurred thought process.. ONE moment of not thinking it through because the pain from ONE moment can change everything.. Don’t blame yourself, even if you were their best friend.. …I called no one.. told no one.. I just walked off.. I just wanted to die.. to be with the women who said “yes”.. it didn’t matter that I was taken home from college.. surrounded by friends and family all day.. I felt alone and that NO ONE understood me.. I DID think it over on what my family would suffer.. but it didn’t seem equal to what I was suffering without her..

    While I made my story short, and to the point.. (to keep from breaking into tears over the memory).. It’s meant to prove a point.. the book answer is not always right.. ONE second changed my life.. just because the book says they were obviously “hiding drugs or depression”, it doesn’t make it true.. Wednesday may have been the best day of Katie’s life and she may have considered her life perfect until that point.. .. the age old excuse of depression/drugs/mental illness just helps to drag the next person in line down as well.. it makes you constantly wonder why you didn’t notice.. why you didn’t catch the signs.. why you weren’t a good enough friend for them to tell you.. makes you question them as a friend, “were they mental?”… completely sane people commit suicide as well…

    How many of you have received a paper cut? Ever receive it slow enough to where you FEEL it cut into your skin?.. the moment where you feel the act more so than the pain it causes afterward… like feeling the heat from the sun before the sun burn.. …that moment is a dangerous moment.. because in that moment, you feel the act.. not the pain to follow.. in that moment your brain thinks outwardly so to speak, not inwardly.. THAT moment is when most choose to “pull the trigger”… the ones who “step back from the ledge” are those who dwelt on it long enough before stepping and had the “inward” thought…

    …my case is not the case always.. sometimes the signs are all there.. sometimes it is depression/drugs/mental… sometimes the signs are there and we just pass them off in the back of our head.. especially in our teens.. we have all suffered a day or more of depression.. some months.. some years.. we look at it as almost normal in those years and shrug it off.. we hope that they see us as good enough friends/family to tell us if something is wrong.. ..we all know that telling friends/family can be the hardest thing sometimes though as well..

    …I lost a friend to suicide once as well.. and I asked myself the same questions.. I suffered as well not knowing if I could have stopped it not.. I was told the text book answers as well.. which answers nothing..

    In the last 10 years, I’ve been lucky (and I say that because it rares) to receive a phone call from a friend about to commit to the act.. I’ve gotten a text from another.. …and this is where my outlook on life differs from MANY others..
    ..as I sat there.. phone in hand, tears in my eyes talking/texting with my friends.. you cover the basics.. you explain the loved ones that will have to be left behind.. the pain and sorry they will have to endure.. you explain your own love for them… you ask WHY?!… you put yourself in their shoes.. and you begin to understand..
    …when all is said and done.. it’s not your choice.. it’s theirs.. …to sit on the phone.. waiting for the next sound.. praying in your head that it’s a voice.. praying that the text message is returned again.. you come to an understanding… I’ve been there.. I understand, that sometimes.. the pain IS more than they want to feel.. sometimes, that pain DOESN’T go away in a day, week, or month.. sometimes.. even when 7 years have passed.. you still have moments where you break down and cry without notice… anywhere.. like a busy airport.. and the world stops and stares at you like a freak because you hold a secret.. a past.. something the world outside those who know you are oblivious to.. and so security is called, and the place is cleared.. and you feel like a FREAK.. all because you have a pain inside that renders you useless… …that’s just too much for some.. and I understand that..

    To be scared when a friend takes their life though.. regardless of how many or how close.. in less than 10 years since graduating, I lost 13 friends from school.. most in accidents (car crash, lighting strike, drug overdose, pool side electrocution, military, etc).. you wonder why.. why so many around you can live to be 45 before they know their first loss.. while you learn it at such a young age.. and more than once.. THAT is something we come to understand as we grow older.. not in that a 60 year old man knows why your friends are no longer with us.. but in that YOU learn why YOUR friends have gone.. ..I learned that I lost my fiance before my mother so that 2 years later when my mother passed, while the rest of the family was in shambles.. I could stand.. I had the strength to get things done when needed. I learned beforehand the way to get back on my feet so I could pass it on to my father. I learned that my fiances death would become a story of strength and encouragement for many.. ..I learned that there was no reason to fear the loss of those around me.. that when God calls us home, we go.. that each moment is a moment to cherish and enjoy.. not to be afraid.. it’s NOT something in the water.. it’s not something going around.. it’s God in his infinite wisdom setting things into place for each of us to accomplish what we need to..

    The death of my 1st fiance put me on a new course in life.. that new course has led me to the woman I know call my wife, and the precise little girl who’s blood matches my own.. my daughter.. my world. The very girl who would not exist had I had a daughter with my first fiance.. and every father may say it.. but my daughter will change the world.

    Having gone through the struggles.. the countless friends I have laid to rest.. ..those moments have defined me.. they have created the empathetic and compassionate father and husband I needed to be.. .. while I mourn their absences still, and I still ask why from time to time.. I know that God has a reason for ALL things.. and the answers MAY come to us while still here, or they may not.. but we live and learn from each.. we thank God that of all the people on Earth, He gave US the precious moments we had with them.. and that for whatever reason they lived.. they did just that, they lived.

    • sandy

      You are an amazing person to share this story. I lost my brother to suicide, and this brought back so many feelings that I thought I had put away for ever. Thank you for writing.

      • Nathan Daniel Roeseler

        Thank you… I learned that the moments that define our own lives can be helpful to other as well.. but only if we tell them… even when it’s hard.

        My deepest condolences to you and your family.. I know that losing family is never easy.. I hope you and your family have come to understand something about your brothers decision.

    • Deborah

      Nathan, I appreciate your candor about your own experience. I am so sorry to hear that you suffered so much, but I am glad that you found coping mechanisms (God and prayer). I am glad that you feel that your life has turned around. Here’s my experience.
      My son was on facebook one day when he came upon a classmate’s post which stated that she wanted to kill herself. He called me over to the computer. We called the school guidance department and the counselor got the young lady help before she tried anything. Whether or not my son saved this girl’s life, we will never know. But…if he had done nothing and she died, that would be a certainty and my son would live questioning whether or not he did the right thing by letting it go. If he had gotten involved and was unsuccessful, then he lives with the fact that he did his best. Getting help for someone sometimes doesn’t work, but sometimes it does.

      • Nathan Daniel Roeseler

        Thank you for your kind words..

        I’m thankful you raised your son to be the way he is.. you are right, did he save her? We may never know… but it’s better to “err” on the side of caution. I’m glad you have a happy ending to your experience as well. ^_^

        and thank you so much for sharing as well.. we may never know.. but I feel (and hope) that our words have helped someone.. if even just one, it’s worth it.

  • Cythina Lang

    I’ve read that Karen was seeing “professionals” before she died. Was she on drugs for her “mental health”? Was Katherine? If so, it’s possible that the drugs they were taking contributed to their decision to do it.

    • a

      i believe she was doing marijuana regularly

      • senortruth

        ^ you sir are an idiot.

    • Cythina Lang

      To clarify, I do not mean illicit drugs, I mean drugs that are actually supposed to help with conditions such as depressions or attention deficits. Some of those do have suicidal tendencies as a “rare” side effect.

  • Lindsay Lopez

    How did she kill herself? I would like to know since she was a very close friend of mine

    • Al

      If you were infact a close friend, the family would disclose that information to you

    • rzimmerman

      See updates above. RZ

    • cwill

      if she was a close friend of yours, you should know how she died. what a horrible thing to ask!~

  • Anon

    I feel like this was completely selfish and not helping themselves at all. Your just hurting others by killing yourself and it doesnt solve anything.

    • Nathan Daniel Roeseler

      I hope you never find yourself in a situation where suicide is the only option left to ease your suffering.. I posted a quite lengthy response above.. please read it..

      While suicide is selfish.. I wouldn’t call it completely selfish.. sometimes, the option to live with the life long suffering awaiting some.. is just more than some can take..

      and it does solve something.. it eases your pain.. which in many cases is more pain than those who will merely suffer your loss… and yes I attribute a life as merely in this case.. because there are pains of this world I hope you never understand.

      Do I recommend suicide as an escape? no.. many have “stepped back from the ledge” and gone on to live a life full of wondrous moments.. like myself.. but I know some who were not made to handle what God has placed before me…. some may know the road ahead.. they may see 15 years of suffering before day breaks.. to some, no matter how you place it before them.. they can’t understand the joy acquired at the end of the tunnel if they have never known anything like it before.. ..you can’t explain or comprehend the feeling of bringing your own child into the world until it happens..

      • JBS

        Nathan – your post was fantastic and I related to a LOT of it. I suffered for 13 years (horrible, horrible pain) and now have an incredible life. I sat with a knife to my wrists at 19 and then at 31 resolved to the fact that things would NEVER get better and knew that at some point I really would end it all. I didn’t want to die, but I wanted the pain to just stop. My life changed 5 years ago when I got sober, was cleared up enough for therapy and support to do what it is suppose to do so that I could move on from emotional traumas, and finally let God back in my life. Our stories need to be told. Everyone of us that suffered has a different story, but the feelings are the same. Thank you for sharing yours.

        • Nathan Daniel Roeseler

          Thank you JBS.. I know sometimes it’s REALLY hard to tell our stories.. but I know that I’ve heard stories that have changed my life forever..

          I can’t express the feeling I have to know you suffered for so long.. but I can say that when you wrote you got sober and let God back in your life.. I smiled.. ^_^

          Thank you for sharing yours as well.

  • Anne

    So sorry to hear the news but appreciate this blog posting the community resources. I lost my two uncles to suicide and I’m organizing the Boston AFSP’s International Survivors Day on Nov 23 http://www.afsp.orgsurvivorday

  • Not named

    Personally, being a Newton teenager myself and knowing that my middle school and Newton South are basically next to each other, this is frightening. I’ve always been scared of death and I’m terrified of any murder or suicide news around Newton. Heck, I used to keep my door open at night at age 11 because then I wouldn’t feel scared and have my usual nightmare of me getting stabbed or shot. First, it was Newton North. Now it’s Newton South? What’s going to come next? They just can’t carelessly throw away their life like this!

    • Deborah

      Please discuss your feelings with a trusted adult. It can be a parent, a friend’s parent, a relative, a teacher, or a guidance counselor. Know that you are safe, but it is important to discuss your feelings with an adult who can give you some insight and alleviate your worries.

    • Nathan Daniel Roeseler

      I posted quite a lengthy response above.. I hope it helps.

  • Another guy in Newton.

    I didn’t really know either of them, I met them once or twice each. Either way this is horrible, they were both amazing people from what I know and are missed greatly.

  • Anon.

    Her brother is extremely torn. Luckily everyone in Newton is really supportive about everything and there is a memorial fund for her. RIP

  • NK

    i do not believe a word the police are saying this sounds like some mass brainwashing of the public

    • newton

      um, what?

  • Newton

    as the brother of a newton south high school-er I herd about this and was sad that this was the third death in the last two weeks

    • careyg

      Karen Douglas and Katie Stack — who was the third?

  • Newton

    As a teenager in Newton, I’m scared to say the least. Think about it, in the last MONTH two seemingly happy teenage girls killed themselves. What drove them to this point? I look around and see my friends and think, who will be next?

    • Laurie

      I pray for you and all teenagers everywhere. Please, if and when you are ever having a hard time coping with any kind of pain, reach out to someone for help. No matter how awful any situation might be, it is temporary. Better days will be ahead. Look at how many people loved these two teenage girls. I’ll bet they didn’t realize they were loved by so many people, and felt alone. You are loved, stay with us.
      Sincerely,
      A complete stranger in Vermont.

      • Deborah

        Sweetheart, you hit the nail on the head when you said “seemingly happy”. Generally speaking, people who commit suicide have some kind of mental illness, depression, or drug problem. It isn’t one or another upset in life that causes this. The best way to prevent something like this from occurring is that if you notice that a friend is feeling down for a long period of time, talks a lot about death (his or her own or in general), starts giving away all of his or her prized possessions, or confides in you that he or she plans to kill him or herself, you need to report it immediately to a parent, teacher, or guidance counselor. If one adult does nothing about it, find another adult. IMO, I would rather have a friend who isn’t talking to me than a dead friend. But…anyway, that is a proactive action that you can take.
        Just as the whole community, you are feeling upset. Please discuss your feelings about this situation with the adults in your life. This situation is difficult and not one that kids or adults can handle on their own. People need to support each other.

    • Nathan Daniel Roeseler

      I posted quite a lengthy response above.. I hope it helps you.

  • scott smith

    it is of no benefit to anyone except themselves to know that they will not forget these children

    • scott smith

      i mean to say that knowledge might help one’s own emotions in a case like this

    • Nathan Daniel Roeseler

      Not necessarily true.. while it will hopefully be beneficial to remember the losses for themselves.. it should also bring comfort to all who knew her in knowing that she has impacted so many lives as well.. …it SHOULDN’T matter in a perfect world… but knowing that someone impacted a large amount of lives over simply one is consolation to many.