WLHS freshman dies at home
Sierra Grill is described by family, friends as humorous and a talented musician
West Linn High School freshman Sierra Grill, 15, killed herself at home Feb. 1, according to police.
As news spread last week, friends, family and other community members grieved the loss of Grill, a student known for her humor as well as playing rugby and mandolin and the daughter of Pat and Cheryl Grill. She was one of five children, with one sister and three brothers.
'Sierra was a wonderful, talented young woman who graced those around her with her many special gifts, music and sense of humor,' the Grill family said in a written statement issued Feb. 2. 'The family recognizes that these are difficult times in the West Linn community and asks people to honor Sierra by reaching out to those who may be alone or hurting in some way.'
A memorial service is planned for Feb. 13 at 4 p.m. at River West Church, located at 2000 Country Club Road in Lake Oswego.
WLHS Principal Lou Bailey said he was notified of Grill's death the night of Feb. 1 and immediately made a plan with his administrative team, school counselors and other district staff to lend support; the school's forum was turned into a 'safe room' for those grieving.
Bailey followed up with an email to school families, writing: 'This is a time for our school community to rally together and support this family and all of our young adults. Circumstances like this may bring up emotions for kids from previous experiences. … I would please ask that everyone rely on facts and not rumors. Our immediate concern is for the well-being of the family and close friends and all of our students who may feel this impact in some manner. Our children are so precious to us and this loss is devastating.'
As news continued to spread, school principals such as Debbie Briggs-Crispin at Rosemont Ridge Middle School - where Grill attended eighth grade - wrote emails to parents relaying information and offering additional support for younger students. Briggs-Crispin said Grill attended Three Rivers Charter School in the sixth and seventh grades.
A Facebook group called 'Sierra Grill's Facebook Student Memorial' was created Feb. 2 to share comments from friends, students and other community members, such as this one from Jackson Gulyas Waste: 'Sierra was a friend of mine. She was funny. Like super funny. I remember when I would ask her why she shredded the mandolin so hardcore. … I want you to know everyone misses you. … At least we can all take comfort in the fact that you are at peace.'
Logan Carter also posted on the Facebook memorial. He said, 'Wednesday evening life did a terrible thing to us. We lost an angel... I just hope we can all learn from this and the bullying at West Linn will end. Love yourself and everyone else for who they are. Differences should be celebrated, not mocked. See you in Heaven.'
WLHS junior Shelby Roell is coping with the loss of Grill in a unique way. Roell wrote 'RIP Sierra' on her rugby shoe and posted a photo on Facebook.
'It was her first year playing rugby, and she was amazing at it,' Roell said, 'so I thought it would be a nice tribute to write her name on my cleat so she could play rugby with me/the team at every practice and game.'
Others in the community set up the 'Sierra Grill Memorial Fund' which is accepting donations under the same name for the Grill family at Bank of the West locations.
Michelle Olson, with WLHS's counceling department, said that flowers, letters and posters that have arrived at the school have been delivered to the Grill family.
'We will also bring any additional items to the memorial service on Monday,' Olson said. 'We are doing the best we can to support our school community 'family' in this tragic time.'
West Linn Police Sgt. Neil Hennelly said police heard rumors about possible bullying but found no signs of harassment. A note from the deceased might have been found on school grounds, but officers hadn't confirmed an actual link and couldn't provide any details.
Last week Hennelly said students talking about whether bullying was a factor might have been searching for motives as a way to cope.
Suicide is a major public health problem, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
According to the latest NIMH figures available, in 2007, suicide was the third leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24.
Risk factors include depression and other mental disorders, a family history of violence, suicide, mental disorders or substance abuse, the presence of firearms in the home or exposure to suicidal behavior of others.
- Assistant Editor Kara Hansen Murphey contributed to this report
Warning signs of suicide
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, warning signs of suicide include:
* Talking about wanting to die;
* Talking about feeling hopeless or lacking purpose;
* Talking about feeling trapped or in pain;
* Talking about being a burden;
* Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly;
* Increasing use of alcohol or drugs;
* Sleeping more or less than usual;
* Withdrawing or feeling isolated; and
* Displaying extreme mood swings.
If someone exhibits these warning signs, call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Do not leave them alone; remove firearms, alcohol and drugs and sharp objects and take them to an emergency room or seek help from a health professional.