10-Year-Old Santa Ana Girl Dies by Suicide

A Allison Ruth Wendel with a smile on her face, from her GoFundMe page her family put up.

Courtesy of the Wendel Hernandez Family

A Allison Ruth Wendel with a smile on her face, from her GoFundMe page her family put up.

By Wendy Rodriguez, Godinez Fundamental High School

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Allison Ruth Wendel, 10, from Santa Ana committed suicide on Sunday, October 13, 2019. She attended Hazard Elementary School as a fifth-grader in neighboring Garden Grove Unified School District.

The Santa Ana Police Department confirms Wendel was found dead in the bathroom by her 9-year-old sister. Her parents were not home at the time.

Police and school authorities are investigating her social media to determine whether bullying played a role in her death. According to Univision Noticias, they confirmed that bullying wasn’t the reason for suicide. And her family does not believe bullying was a factor that led to her suicide because they monitored her social media.

Garden Grove Unified School District, where Allison attended school, said in a statement:

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic passing of one of our students. We have our crisis counselors on site today and throughout the week to ensure students and staff have to support during this difficult time. While the Santa Ana Police Department is conducting a thorough investigation, we have no evidence to support this rumor (of bullying). Hazard Elementary School has a longstanding PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) program and takes a proactive approach to promote a positive school culture.”

Sometimes asking for help is the bravest move you can make”

— Debra Robertson, School Psychologist

With Wendel’s suicide, many Godinez Fundamental High School students were saddened to hear of someone so young taking her life.

Sophomore Kimberly Sanchez was shocked when she heard of Wendel’s death. Sanchez said,  “I can just imagine how tough it is to lose a child at such a young age. She and her family are in my prayers.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. Suicide rates have increased in practically every state from 1999 through 2016 by 30 percent. In 2016, about 45,000 Americans age 10 or older died by suicide. Children age 10-14 years-old have suicide rates that increased from 2007-2017.

For students at Godinez there are multiple resources in place if they need someone to talk to.

Debra Robertson, school psychologist, after hearing about this tragedy said, “It’s sad that she felt like she had nothing else to do besides end her life. That there was nobody there for her that she could have reached out to.” Robertson added, “ ‘Sometimes asking for help is the bravest move you can make’.” Robertson is at Godinez every day, located in the main office and meets with students daily.

Sarah Meastas, the school social worker, is very saddened by this tragic loss as well and has questioned how this could have happened. Meastas suggests for students to be completely honest with her in order to find the best solution and if needed she suggests possibly going to therapy perhaps staying in a hospital for safety concerns.

Meastas also encourages activities that are helpful to students, including creating a safety plan and coping skills such as active dancing, being positive, and most importantly reaching out to at least three people. Meastas is at Godinez from Monday through Friday and is located in the counseling center, 4-114.

Meastas added, “I know it can be really scary to ask for help, but you’re not alone and I or any other adult on campus will be here for you to guide you through the process.”

Michelle Holguin, a school counselor whose roster of students are with the last names P-S, said, “I think it’s devastating.”  Holguin’s hope is perhaps Wendel’s family can share her story in order to spread awareness to elementary schools to take this more seriously. Holguin said, “I would encourage students to share their feelings with a trusted person because there is a lot of pain from stuffing down your feelings.”

Another place students can get help or support is the Wellness Center. Claudia Tapia, the Center’s director feels, “very sad that this young girl felt alone and decided to take her life. This tragedy further emphasizes the importance of making sure all students are okay and feel loved.”

Located in room 4-211, near the front office, the Wellness Center provides students with a safe and welcoming environment, resources and de-stress/relaxation activities. Tapia wants students and staff to know, “I am here to be a positive adult for all of our students. As a person who strives to be a resource, I strongly encourage students to find a trusted adult on campus because we are all here to help and nobody should have to face challenges alone.”

Allison Wendel celebrating her sixth birthday. Courtesy of the GoFundMe Page, provided by Bonnie Mesinas.

As for the Wendel family, Tapia’s deepest condolences are with them.  She continued, “I can only hope that they will find the strength to transform their pain and suffering into motivation to advocate for more mental health services in K-12 education. Allison is an angel now.”

The Wendel Hernandez family has started a  GoFundMe page where people can donate to pay the travel expenses of the family to Oaxaca, Mexico in order

to bury their daughter. They set a goal of $30,000 to help cover the costs and therapy for Allison’s sister who discovered her. They also hosted a fundraiser on October 19 and 20 by selling food and drinks. Currently, they have raised over $33,000 on their GoFundMe page on top of what they gained from their fundraiser.

Godinez Principal Jesse Church stressed, “If you need help, please ask. If you don’t trust your teachers, you can talk to a custodian, an office worker, an administrator, it’s my hope that you feel comfortable talking to me.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, reach out and talk to an adult you trust. If you feel you have no one, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. There is always help.

This story was originally published on Grizzly Gazette on October 31, 2019.