MOORPARK (CBSLA.com) — Logan Beck appeared to have it all – he was a good student at Moorpark High School, a member of the junior varsity football team and considered to be funny, likeable and popular.
“He was just a really cool kid. He was fun to be around,” Logan’s stepmother Kelly Beck said.
“He was genuinely funny,” his father, Dean Beck said.
They had no idea their 16-year-old son was fighting an internal battle.
“There weren’t the typical signs, he wasn’t withdrawn, he wasn’t failing, he wasn’t socially awkward,” Kelly Beck said.
Deputies swarmed Moorpark High School on Dec. 19, just days away from Christmas, after administrators discovered a letter that law enforcement officials say threatened violence. The campus was locked down and several hours later, a teen stepped in front of a train – Logan Beck.
“I went right past the train, and I saw everybody around the train,” Dean Beck said. “I was on the phone with (Kelly). I said, ‘he’s gone, he stepped in front of the train’.”
“The two nights before, we watched cartoons with the younger kids, a Christmas (cartoon), he came in and we popped popcorn. We’re still reeling. None of the normal signs were there, so don’t even know how to classify it,” Kelly said.
More than a month later, the Becks have seen what was in Logan’s journal and self-titled manifesto left at school. They say he never made a specific threat to the school, but expressed frustration at the “mindless sheep” of society. Logan had written that he was “tired of living, tired of the pain in the world” and “feared he’d succumb to urges to hurt other people”.
It was a struggling, disturbed side of their son they had never seen.
“It’s like, who stepped on the train track was not our son,” Dean Beck said.
Dean Beck, a former Army Ranger, and step-mom Kelly, an educator who raised Logan since he was a toddler, say what’s most troubling is that they had just talked with Logan about suicide when he came to them, concerned about a friend.
“He shared his feelings, said he was really upset,” Kelly Beck said. “(Logan said) ‘Why would she do this? Why would someone kill themselves’ We talked about the feelings people feel.”
What happened to his son has prompted Dean Beck to ask for more to be done for teens who could be in crisis.
“I know they put things out there they have counselors, ‘we have this, we have that’ but what they really haven’t pushed is to strip away the stigma that it’s OK to ask for help if you are feeling strange,” he said.
Both the district and the principal at Moorpark High School declined a request for an on-camera interview. They also declined to answer questions specific to the Logan Beck case. They did say administrators are trained and visit each class at the beginning of each school year to let students know resources are available if they are feeling sad, bullied or suicidal.
Those resources include counselors and an anonymous hotline to make a report. Schools are also working with the Ventura County Department of Behavioral Health to implement programs like Safe Talk, which is designed to train confidential peer counselors.
Dr. Celia Woods, a psychiatrist with the Department of Behavioral Health, points out that it’s not just the kids, who are considered to be unpopular, who consider suicide.
“Many kids, many people, are very good at masking what’s going on internally. High achievers may be very reluctant to seek help to let anyone know what’s going on,” she said.
According to the most recent California Healthy Kids survey, 34 percent of Ventura County 11th graders have had two weeks or more of feeling sad and hopeless. Another 20 percent of 11th graders – or one in five – have had serious thoughts of suicide within the past year.
Woods says the hyper-connectivity of social media can actually make people feel more isolated.
“It’s a very different thing to sit in front of a computer and have pseudo relationships with people that could be anywhere as opposed to having real, meaningful connections, emotionally-connected relationships with other people,” she said. “Even though we’re so connected, we’re disconnected at the same time.”
The Becks say they monitored Logan’s social media closely and were concerned by sites like Ask.fm that allow anonymous posters to ask questions and get an answer from teens.
“If a parent thinks they are involved, they are not as involved as they need to be,” Dean Beck said. “They need to be checking every aspect of their life.”
Although they feel they did all they could, the Becks hope sharing their story sparks a conversation and erases the stigma of talking about suicide.
“I really have to believe that the pain that we’re feeling is for something,” Dean Beck said. “That Logan’s death wasn’t in vain. That if some kid out there can get the help that he or she needs, because of this incident, it meant something, it was worth something.”
For more information or for help on how to start a conversation on suicide, visit suicideispreventable.org.