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Brampton pastor talks openly about teen's suicide

03/26/2012 08:19 EDT | Updated 05/26/2012 05:12 EDT

Teenagers and staff at a Brampton, Ont., high school are mourning the loss of a Grade 12 student who took his own life, and the boy's family and school are discussing it openly to draw attention to teen suicide.

Caylen Millben, 17, of Sandalwood Heights Secondary School died on Friday night.

Millben seemed to be living a happy life as a rugby player, a lover of the outdoors, and a peer counsellor.

"It happens to everybody, and if we're going to stop it, we have to talk about it," said his father, Corey Millben, who is a pastor at the Grant African Methodist Episcopal Church on Gerrard Avenue. "We have to communicate about it. We have to love our kids through it."

Millben saw no warning of the tragedy ahead.

"He was sleeping on the couch on Thursday night, and I woke him up," Millben said on Monday. "And he kissed me and he said, 'I love you Dad,' kissed me good night, went to school the next morning. [I] went to look for him and he never came home from school."

The pastor says he doesn't want to hide the facts.

"I don't know what to say or what to do, but I know acting like it's something that never happens is not going to work," he said.

With the permission of the family, the Peel District School Board took the unusual step of publicly acknowledging the suicide. It sent a letter home with students that included tips on watching for signs of depression and how to deal with grief.

3rd student suicide since November

Students and parents say Millben is the third teenager at the school to take his life since November.

Board spokesman Brian Woodland said grief counsellors will be at the school as long as necessary to talk with students and staff who knew Caylen.

They will also be on hand at two other schools that Millben attended — Mountain Ash Middle School and Robert J Lee Public School.

Grief counselling is especially important to correct the rumours that spread on social media sites, Woodland said.

"Students have been on social media all weekend long talking to each other about it, and if they come to school and we say, 'We can't talk about this,' it really creates a barrier as we try to help them through their grief," he said.

A memorial where students can write down memories has been set up in the foyer of Sandalwood Heights, and the school's flag is at half-mast.

The school board is also looking at introducing long-term programs to help students.

Millben's funeral is scheduled for Thursday.

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