RARITAN TWP., NJ - As the community reels from news of a student’s death here last week, questions about the cause and circumstances of the death remain.
In a weekend email to parents, Hunterdon Central High School Superintendent Jeff Moore said, "The cause of death was suicide."
Allison Vandal “was a very talented sophomore who was deeply involved in our arts programs,” Moore wrote. “She and her family have been the focus of our thoughts and prayers since Tuesday.”
That was the day police reported a “medical emergency” at the school. Raritan Township Police Lt. Al Payne said the student was treated at the scene by township police, and then taken to Hunterdon Medical Center.
“We will continue to have additional counselors on campus as long as necessary,” Moore said. “If you have any concerns about your child, or any child, please call us."
Moore reported that Allison died Saturday afternoon.
“Students may tell any teacher that they need help, or that they are concerned about another person,” he continued. “Students may also go directly to one of our counseling offices.”
But Paul Approvato, a spokesperson for the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office, said this morning that the death and circumstances surrounding it “remains under investigation.”
County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns, III and his staff are working with Raritan Township police to investigate all aspects related to the death, Approvato said.
The cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner, he said. An autopsy is to be conducted today, but Approvato added that he didn’t know when the results of the autopsy would be available to investigators.
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, recent surveys show that suicide is on the rise among some populations. It is the third leading cause of death among those between the ages of 10 and 14, and the second leading cause of death among those between the ages of 15 and 34.
The American Center for Suicide Prevention shows a slow, steady increase in the suicide rate over the last decade.
There are many suicide prevention and information resources. NJ Hopeline offers confidential help every day of the year, around-the-clock, at 1-855-NJ-HOPELINE (654-6735). It also offers a web-based chat resource, and text messaging at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255.
Mental health experts say no one should hesitate to seek help for themselves or anyone that they know. Information about risk factors and how to respond is widely available.
School spokesperson Nancy Tucker referred further inquiries to Moore, who did not immediately respond.