Aug. 31, 2019 — Summer came to a sudden halt for the Siuslaw School District on Sunday as it was announced that longtime middle school teacher Scott Anderson had apparently died by suicide. At just 48, Anderson had a loving wife, two caring children and a district full of students who loved his classes.
While an investigation is ongoing, Oregon State Police Captain Timothy Fox, public information officer, stated Anderson suffered a fatal wound that “appeared to be self-inflicted.”
Oregon State Police, Western Lane Ambulance District, Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue and the fire and EMS districts’ Community Support Team responded to a call-out in Dunes City around 4:50 p.m. last Sunday, Aug. 25, for a death investigation.
“We were dispatched to come out for an unresponsive male and determined that resuscitation would not be possible,” stated Western Lane EMS Operation Chief Matt House. “Any time there is an unwitnessed death, it has to be investigated, as per state statute.”
The Lane County Medical Examiner’s Office will continue to investigate.
“When people are involved, emotions are involved, especially for such a seminal event in the community,” House said. “Our patients now are the people left behind.”
Monday marked the first day back for district staff and teachers, and Siuslaw School District Superintendent Andy Grzeskowiak said that crisis teams were already on alert to assist staff with their needs. The district also held a grief support open house at Siuslaw Middle School on Wednesday night.
“Crisis teams will begin planning grief services for students at the beginning of school as well,” Grzeskowiak said. “Scott taught at both the elementary and middle schools for several years, so there will be a ripple effect through the student body over the first few weeks of school.”
At the grief support open house, people with specific training in grief and loss counseling from four faith organizations, as well as from the Community Support Team and other agencies were on site to help the community process.
A slideshow shared memories that Anderson’s colleagues had of him over the course of his 20 years at the Siuslaw School District. Over those years, he had worked at Rhododendron Elementary and Siuslaw Elementary and was most recently at Siuslaw Middle School. One teacher had been a student of Anderson’s and treasured that they were able to work together later and become friends.
People had the option to write a letter to Anderson or his family, with prompts on the table that read, “What I most appreciated about Mr. Anderson was …” Each table had writing implements, sensory Play Dough, paper, envelopes and cards and stickers for Oregon YouthLine, where teens can text with fellow teens about whatever is on their minds from 4 to 10 p.m.
More information and a chatline are available at OregonYouthLine.org.
“We are pushing suicide awareness for the community,” said House. “Our Community Support Team has been doing a really good job on that. We are now helping with the survivors in our community. We don’t want them to be another statistic.”
It’s not yet September, and school has not yet started, but Siuslaw School District will be feeling the ripples of this for some time. Grief counseling will continue to be available to students and staff, and the greater community is urged to speak to someone if they are struggling with thoughts of suicide.
“As students and staff are still processing the loss of Mr. Anderson, the district will host another grief support open house at Siuslaw Middle School on Wednesday, Sept. 4, from 5 to 7 p.m.,” Grzeskowiak said. “The event is primarily geared for students and staff that might need help in processing the loss of Mr. Anderson, but it is open to parents and the community.”
In addition, each school building will have a grief room set aside for students to access resources during the first weeks of school.
Lane County offers several mental health resources, some of which are linked through Siuslaw School District’s website at www.siuslaw.k12.or.us/article/129379, as well as resources for residents, veterans and other groups.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24 hours every day by calling 1-800-273-8255 or visiting suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The lifeline for Spanish speakers, Nacional de Prevención del Suicidio, is 1-888-628-9454. The lifeline for deaf and hard of hearing people is 1-800-799-4889.
For information on Western Lane and Siuslaw Valley’s Community Support Team, call 916-802-9705.