The family of the young man who died of an apparent suicide at Berkeley High School on Monday told Berkeleyside this week they were not sure how he had ended up there, and said he had been struggling in recent years with drug addiction.
Authorities identified the 21-year-old as Michael B. Hamilton, whose last known address was in Placerville. Police said Hamilton’s family is based in Oregon.
Hamilton’s mother, Erma, shared a photograph of her son with Berkeleyside on Thursday.
She said his family in Oregon is struggling with his death, and isn’t sure why he chose Berkeley High as the place to end his life.
She said he had been dealing with drug addiction over the past few years, adding, “He had an extremely hard hand of life. He was my shining star filled with some darkness!”
She also said Hamilton was one of six siblings, “five sons, one daughter. All are broken up. He was the fixer in our family. Full of laughter.”
Linda Davis, Hamilton’s aunt, said some family members had just reunited with the young man during Christmas.
“At this time, all I can say is we are confused & sad for our loss,” she wrote, via email. “He is not the type of person that would dramatize a high school. This family is truly for sorry for any pain and discomfort this may have caused. Please keep our family in your prayers.”
Authorities said the young man’s body was found Monday, while Berkeley High was closed for the Presidents Day holiday. Authorities believe his death, by hanging, was a suicide.
Berkeley High School Principal Pasquale Scuderi alerted parents to the death by email Monday night. His message included the following reminders and resources:
The very act of someone taking their own life on our campus will make for some anxious and unsettling questions from our students. Below are some very general starter resources to help parents and teachers facilitate discussion and help us respond to questions our kids might have.
Invariably there will be questions tomorrow, yet we cannot provide you much more than what we have already shared with you. The most salient and appropriate points we can share with kids are as follows:
- A death did occur on campus over the long weekend
- It does appear to have been a case of someone taking their own life
- Police are still investigating
- We are still in the process of determining what connections if any this person has to BHS
- If you or any of your friends need support because of any anxiety or fear this event understandably brings up for you please see your counselor first
- If more information comes to light that is relevant and appropriate to share, the administrative team will do so
- If you know of anyone who is struggling with thoughts of taking their own life or hurting themselves or others, please inform an adult on campus or seek help in the BHS Health Center
This I know is difficult and unsettling news, yet we will of course manage it together with the safety and the well-being of our students at the forefront of our efforts.