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Westminster, CO teen dies after igniting himself at high school

Vince Nett, 16, of Westminster, Colorado, succumbed to injuries sustained when he set himself on fire last month. The teen's violent, self-inflicted act of attempted suicide leaves many with more questions than answers. Today's demanding quest to belong [somewhere, anywhere] is a growing problem among adolescents. Access to the world through a small device is also a double-edged sword. One can build and destroy reputations, perceptions and thus lives overall, with a few clicks and "send."

The high school student attended Standley Lake High School, and showed no previous signs of disparage. He arrived at school on January 27 and ingested bleach from a plastic bottle. He then doused himself with fuel and ignited his body. This caused burns to over 80% of his body, yet he lived because a school custodian managed to extinguish the fire. The injuries proved to fatal this week, when Nett could no longer fight the battle to stay alive.

Reasons for the teen's self-destruction are vague. He set himself on fire in his high school's cafeteria, with little explanation as to specifically why. According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in this country in 2007.

In recent years, the suicide rate among teens has increased. Bullying has been a leading cause of adolescents attempting to stop the pain, via suicide. But what do parents to when their child commits such a horrifying atrocity as Vince Nett has done and there is no clearly definable explanation. In fact, Nett said in a written statement prior to the incident that it was "no one's fault." He had apparently been planning this for years.

Vince's Facebook page speaks a cautionary tale: "Sometimes the person who tries to keep everyone happy is the most lonely person. So never leave that person alone, because they'll never tell you."

For suicide prevention help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).


National Institute of Mental Health

New York Times

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