Perry student dies by suicide after long struggle SanTan Sun News

Perry student dies by suicide after long struggle

May 11th, 2021 STSN Staff
Perry student dies by suicide after long struggle
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SANTAN SUN NEWS STAFF

A Perry High School sophomore died by suicide May 2 after months of struggling with mental health problems and multiple suicide attempts.

Zyon Anderson, 16, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after his family removed him from life support.

His mother, Nailah Hendrickson, posted on gofundme.com that said Zyon’s death came after a nearly whole year of continuous treatment for depression.

“My baby fought hard and I was there trying to get him help every step of the way — but he wasn’t long for this world,” Hendrickson wrote in a statement. “Zyon will be greatly missed by his family and friends.”

In an interview last month with SanTan Sun News, Hendrickson detailed the long and frustrating battle her family waged to save Zyon.

She described how her son’s mood and demeanor had begun to change shortly after the pandemic began and the schools started to close.

Zyon had begun to withdraw from his family, the mother recalled, and lost interest in activities that used to bring him joy.

After a couple suicide attempts, Zyon underwent  extensive therapy and counseling while his mother began to monitor his daily movements.

“This has been emotionally, financially, and mentally devastating,” Hendrickson said last month. “This caught us by surprise and it’s not something we had planned for.”

The mother lamented the lack of support she felt for her family during Zyon’s mental health crisis. Hendrickson looked for parent groups that could offer advice on how to handle her son’s illness, yet no one could tell where to find them.

When she attempted to form a parent group at Perry High to help students reintegrate back into the classroom, Hendrickson said her plans were met with resistance from other parents and the whole idea fell apart.

“It seems that Arizona is not really set up for the crisis that happened,” Hendrickson added. “It’s a retirement state and so the mental health care for adolescents is not really a robust system.”

Zyon is the latest of more than 45 East Valley teens who have died by suicide since 2018.

School districts and nonprofits have been attempting to reverse the troubling trend by adding more on-campus resources and improving social-emotional education.

Perry High’s senior football quarterback even appeared in a series of public service announcements last year, urging classmates to seek help if they’re contemplating suicide.

Experts say the mental health crisis that’s been affecting adolescents has only been exacerbated in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent national studies show depression diagnoses increased by 83 percent shortly after the pandemic began last March and the rate of self-harm incidents among teens nearly doubled.

notMykid, an Arizona-based nonprofit that aims to reduce teen suicide, has seen a spike in demand for counseling services throughout the pandemic from adolescents suffering from depression and drug addiction.

“The shutdowns in response to COVID-19 created a lot of social disconnection that has amplified the struggles many young people already face with regard to mental health challenges,” said Shane Watson, a spokesperson for notMykid.

Teens’ entire support systems were often interrupted by the pandemic, Watson added, and many have struggled to find alternative coping mechanisms for their anxiety.

According to his family, Zyon didn’t adapt well to the pandemic’s self-isolation habits and struggled to find distractions from his inner thoughts.

His friends and classmates reacted with shock and heartbreak over his sudden passing. Many of them assembled outside the hospital on the night of his death, praying he might survive the suicide attempt.

Bridget Pitts, one of Zyon’s classmates, hopes the teenager’s death might spur local schools to be more accepting of students struggling with depression and anxiety.

“Chandler has a lot of different students struggling with different health issues,” Pitts said. “I just wish our schools would be more open to talking about mental health every day, rather than when something as horrible as this happens.”

Perry High and Payne Junior High provided additional counseling services for students struggling with the news of Zyon’s death. Zyon had attended Payne and had many friends from that school.

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