KETTERING — Friends remember 15-year-old Megan Fickert for her ever–present smile, kind heart and goofy sense of humor. “Nobody could be around her and be in a bad mood,” recalled her friend, Jessica Coburn.
In the end, it seemed, there was only one person she couldn’t cheer up: herself.
The Fairmont High School sophomore killed herself in her Kettering home last week after battling depression since the fifth grade. “Megan has been sick for years, and I’ve been trying to get her help for years,” said her mother, Michelle Fox.
Tricia Marks, president of Dayton’s Suicide Prevention Center, said, “Depression is the single biggest warning sign and single biggest risk factor for suicide.”
Teens have the lowest suicide rate of any age group in the county in the past six years, according to data from the Montgomery County Coroner’s office. But that same data shows suicide is up in 2010, with 78 cases confirmed through Oct. 19, five of them teens.
The family’s fight to save Megan’s life intensified in recent months. Her mother said Megan was hospitalized last month after cutting herself, and held a knife to her throat in her hospital bed. “Hang in there, baby, until Mommy finds something that helps you,” Fox begged her. She was prescribed the anti-depressant Cymbalta, but told her mother her depression was only worsening with the new medication. “I took her off the meds the Saturday before she died,” Fox said.
Her family said bullying wasn’t a factor, as it has been in recent nationally publicized suicide cases. “Nobody really knows why,” said her brother, Kevin Fickert, 25. “We’ll never know.”
At Fairmont, the death has prompted conversation and soul-searching. Fairmont Principal Dan VonHandorf said in the last week, school counselors have talked to more than 140 students .
“You never want to see a tragedy, but maybe something good can come out of it,” VonHandorf said.
Despite their intense grief, Fox and other family members are speaking out, hoping to assure Megan’s friends and classmates that they aren’t to blame for her death, and to urge parents to keep an open conversation with their children. Said Fox: “If it helps even one child, it will be worth it.”
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