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12-year-old’s suicide shocks Eau Claire community; how you can help someone struggling

Eau Claire (WQOW) – Suicide touches almost everyone’s lives in some way and it’s always tragic.

One local family and school community are now dealing with an unexpected and shocking death.

Gage Allen Wright, a 7th grader at Northstar Middle School in Eau Claire, committed suicide Sunday afternoon.

People who spoke to News 18 are in shock over the unexpected death of the young baseball star.

News 18 does not normally report on suicides, but given the boy’s young age and the impact on the community, we wanted everyone to know about the help available out there.

According to Wright’s obituary, the 12-year-old is remembered as a straight-A student who got the Presidential Award for Academics.

He was a member of the Robotics Club and played in the school band. He also played on the Eau Claire Nationals baseball team.

The loss of a boy with a contagious smile and a willingness to help on and off the field has left teammates, coaches, teachers and students wondering if they missed any warning signs.

“I think anybody who had a part in Gage’s life is questioning what they could have done differently,” said his baseball coach Dan Sydow. “I think we’re all struggling with that, and I think shame on us if it isn’t a wake up call for all of us to look for opportunities to reach out to those that are in our lives that we think might be struggling.”

Staff at Northstar Middle School are helping Wright’s peers, and at the same time, addressing the needs of other children who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts.

In a letter sent to parents (below) Northstar Principal Tim Skutley includes signs parents should watch out for – like expressing hopelessness and withdrawing from friends.

The letter also talks about how parents can help their kids deal with this complex issue at such a young age.  Strategies include: Be simple and straightforward, use words like “death” or “die” instead of “passed away” or “departed.” The principal says you should teach students death is not something that can be caught and it is unusual for a child to die.

The school has a crisis response team available to meet with students throughout the week.

Staff at all Eau Claire Area School District schools now have mental health first aid training to help spot other students who need help.

Wright’s funeral will be at the Gesche funeral home in Neillsville. Visitation will be Saturday January 12 at 10 a.m. The service is at 11 a.m.

A GoFundMe has been set up. You can donate here.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Text TALK to 741741

Northstar Student Services Office: (715) 852-5103

Justin Esterly

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