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June grad was 4th in less than 2 years

By Christopher Baxter

Globe Correspondent / August 11, 2008

The death of a Nantucket teenager found in the woods by his family around dawn Saturday appeared to be a suicide, police said, the fourth among the island's youth in less than two years.

Police said Benjamin Rives, 18, a June graduate of Nantucket High School, last contacted his family about 4 p.m. Thursday and was reported missing by relatives about a day later. Rives was found dead by family members about 5:15 a.m. in a state forest off Rugged Road, police said. The cause of death was under investigation, according to the police report.
"We're as concerned as we ever were," said Michael Kopko, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, in a telephone interview yesterday. "This has been an ongoing situation for us."
The suicide was the second of a teenager this year and the fourth since 2007 to shake the close island community. In January, mental health officials reported that Nantucket High junior William Soverino, 16, killed himself at his family's home. Kathryn Wilder MacLellan, 17, poisoned herself with carbon monoxide three months earlier while sitting in her car on the west side of Mill Hill. And in February 2007, Vaughn Mitchell Peterson, a 15-year-old Nantucket High freshman, hanged himself at his family's home.
About 400 students attend Nantucket High School, according to state education records, and Rives was among about 100 who graduated this year. He was to leave home in a few weeks to attend Pratt Institute, a liberal arts college in New York known for its undergraduate majors in art, architecture, and film, according to a graduation announcement that appeared in the island newspaper The Inquirer and Mirror. At commencement in June, he received a $3,000 scholarship to put toward tuition, the announcement said.
A family friend answered the phone at the Rives home yesterday and declined to comment. A message left for George Kelly, director of student services at Nantucket High, was not immediately returned.
Between 400 and 500 Massachusetts residents each year commit suicide, according to the state Department of Public Health. In 2006, there were at least 437 suicides, 13 of them by people age 19 or younger.
The Globe reported in January that the island's 10,000 year-round residents have higher rates of alcohol and drug use, depression, and seasonal affective disorder than statewide rates. The rate of suicide attempts on Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, and Cape Cod is also higher than statewide.
Peterson was the first Nantucket High School student to commit suicide since 1945. The string of deaths since has prompted changes for the coming school year. The Nantucket Post Traumatic Stress Management Committee met Saturday morning to discuss solutions to the problem, according to a statement released by Kopko and school Superintendent Robert Pellicone. The team was formed this past winter after about 70 residents received training on posttraumatic stress.
New programs at Nantucket High School include a drop-in center staffed full time by a clinician and open daily during the school year, the release said, as well as a new professional training course to help staff at the high school better recognize early signs of suicide. The adjustment counselor at the high school has also become a full-time staff member, the statement said.
In the past, young people have described feeling isolation and hopelessness on the island, where jobs are few and adult expectations of academic success are high.
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