Anna “Sage” Schmitt

Hillcrest Middle School student takes her own life

She was a drummer, a drama student and on the honor roll. She wore her hair in bright rainbow colors, was a Giants fans and liked the band, “Panic! at the Disco.”

Anna “Sage” Schmitt was 14 years old when, on Sunday, April 30, she took her life and was found dead the next morning.

Circumstances regarding the teen’s suicide are unknown, but Jennifer Schwinn, Gravenstein School District superintendent of the Hillcrest Middle School that Anna attended, said in a letter to parents that her death was a communitywide tragedy because the girl was so well known and liked.

“One of our students died by suicide,” Schwinn's letter said. “Anna ‘Sage’ Schmitt was one of our most active and involved students.”

While a motive is unknown, what is apparent is how much she is missed by her friends and family.

“Dear Sage, you’re amazing,” Madi Hinkle wrote on her Instagram account on Monday afternoon. “You mean the world to me. I miss you so much love. I’m so sorry. Boop. I love you. Rest In Peace my love.”

On Tuesday afternoon, her mother Rebekah Schmitt with whom the girl lived in Cotati, expressed her grief over Facebook.

“Sage was lost to us in the early hours of Monday morning. We are grateful for the time that we were blessed to have her colorful, brave, strong, beautiful soul with us as we are crushed that she chose to end it so soon,” Rebekah wrote.

A Hillcrest Middle School student, Anna was active in her school, balancing her interests in  band, jazz band and drama while achieving superintendent’s honor status. Anna played at the Green Music Center last January with the Sonoma County Honor Band. She had the lead role in the school’s musical, “Mulan,” which wrapped up in late March. In April, Anna marched in the Apple Blossom parade with the school band.

Outside of school, she continued to hone her music skills and talents, playing in both the preparatory and repertory orchestras of the Santa Rosa Junior Symphony. She took drum lessons and was part of her own band.

“She touched the lives of many while she was a student at Hillcrest,” Schwinn wrote.

Anna was active on Instagram; her account provides insight into what made her happy and sad. Her acquaintances in her group therapy sessions recall her as being the most optimistic among their close-knit grouping.

She posted photos of her friends and family, highlighting family trips, birthdays and ball games.

Stay alive challenge accepted

Anna “Sage” Schmitt wrote, “Stay alive challenge accepted,” along side a pen-drawn tattoo of a semicolon in an Instagram post on Jan. 1. The tattoo comes from the Semicolon Project, an organization dedicated to reduce the incidents of suicide. The semicolon is the group’s symbol, meaning “Your story isn’t over yet.” The project's founder, Amy Bleuel, took her own life in March of this year. Photo courtesy Instagram.

Last May, Anna came out on Instagram as bisexual, writing, “I’m really bad at this kind of thing so I’m just going to say it — I’m bisexual. I hope this doesn’t change anything but if for some reason it does then I hope you’ll talk to me.”

Photos and posts throughout the past year show a girl who took pride in her sexual orientation and womanhood.

“There’s nothing I would have rather done today then go to a woman’s march,” Anna posted on Jan. 21 with a picture of a homemade shirt that said, “Sushi rolls, not gender rolls.” “Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go to one. Always stand up for what you believe in and don’t let anyone stop you.”

A GoFundMe.com memorial fund has been set up for Anna and her family.

“Anna ‘Sage’ Schmitt’s smile was brighter than her hair and could brighten any room. There are no words to describe the sadness we all feel. A beautiful soul that left us all too soon,” the fund’s description reads.

As soon as it learned of Anna's death early Monday,  the school district moved swiftly to bring counselors, therapists and therapy dogs to the Bloomfield Road campus. Members of the Sonoma County Office of Education’s crisis team will be at the school throughout the week.

On Tuesday evening about 60 parents and school staff members attended a meeting with experienced grief counselors who fielded questions about telltale signs displayed by teens who may harm themselves.

“There are a lot of whys and mysteries about this type of tragedy and sometimes we never know, “ said Av Lefkowitz, a family therapist who works at El Molino High School. “Closure is kind of a myth.”

There are many misconceptions surrounding self-harm by children, experts say.

“We tend to think that certain incidents like bullying caused this, but it is more common that depression is the cause of suicide,” said Margo Requarth, children’s bereavement program coordinator at Sutter Health. “It is common and it may be a treatable brain chemistry issue.”

Schwinn said the school is creating a memorial at the campus, which will be dismantled on the weekend and given to Anna's family.

Additional grief support is at Sonoma County Office of Education:

If you are considering suicide, you can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Bleys Rose contributed to this story.

(50) comments

9epsilon6

i havent been expecting for something like this to happen especially since sage and i were very close friends along with many others. She was my second friend and even more to others. NO OFFENSE does not mean you can say whatever the heck you want. You didnt know her and if you did that doesnt mean you can talk sht about your friend because they are dead. If you are i can only imagine how you treat your friends in real life. Sage and i had very similar problems and as of now ive been very depressed not having my daily check in buddy. How are you? How have your problems been? How is your unsupportive parent treating you? we were there for you and some of close to her know her reason for it and let me tell you her reason was the most unselfish thing i have heard of in my life. you dont know why she did it and dont think for a second you do because if you did you would realize what a shitty thing youve done and how you have no respect from me or anyone else that was close to her. You discussing on how her reasons are selfish makes you one of the most disgusting people ever. my understanding of this world is no one can understand what youve gone through or what your going through until youve been through the same thing or worse and obviously you havent gone through sht.

HJO8212

I am so sorry to hear of Sage's untimely passing. Even though I didn't know them, I live close to where they lived, and remember seeing them and saying hi to them a few months ago, and they emitted such a lovely aura. The fact that they were loved by so many and had grown into such a wonderful person is testament to the kind of encouragement, support and parenting they received. It is a tragedy that they ended their life so soon--that they didn't realize that the emotions they were experiencing would pass. Depression is a mysterious thing--how it can strike even those that have such a solid social and family network and so many prospects and so much to look forward to, which is the most insidious thing about depression.

May those that are there experiencing deep depression stay strong, know their value, persist and thrive in spite of it, and never give up the fight. The dark moments of depression will pass.

NoOffense

She was a pretty little girl with good intelligence and various talents. Its sad that she did what she did but not uncommon. Clearly, she was suffering internally and anyone who says she was "selfish" is garbage. People who are fast to scream suicides are "selfish" are the very weakest people on the planet who would be the first to engage in suicide if they were suffering inside.

0xDEAD BEEF

Interesting comments, as said before. No offense to Sage, but suicide is a really selfish act in general. Sure, you end your life (again, NO OFFENSE!!!), but you spread misery upon everyone who was close to you, and if someone is really, really sad, it could cause a chain reaction of suicides. I had a lot of respect for Sage until she did what she did. I hate to be like this, but 14 is really way too young of an age to even consider a decision like that.

SmallTalk

It's funny how people can post whatever they want and say "no offense" and think it'll be okay. Sage was tortured by their own mind, they were depressed, and they thought that the misery that they would cause by ending their life didn't compare to the horrible life they thought that would leave. Show some respect. Sage was in an incredible amount of pain.

NoOffense

The victim was a nice little girl who was struggling with emotional confusion. Possibly caused by the trendy thought process of today where you can be "gender fluid" rather than accept the gender you were born with. She was born a female. Perhaps all those around her who were saying "be what you want to be ..." are at fault here. She was confused and unhappy. And her so called "friends" might be to blame.

NoOffense

You really have a lack of understanding of our world. When people suffer emotionally or physically, they often times seek relief through death. It happens in war time with severe wounds that have no immediate solution, for example. It happens in all sorts of circumstances. Why do you suppose that state voters have approved assisted suicides in various states around the country? Answer: so that they don't suffer for 6 months in end stage cancer, etc, when the death outcome is the final result regardless. You have no understanding whatsoever about the world in which you live. None. Even your arbitrary idea that "14 is way to young" says it all... because you then are saying some age is more appropriate and only you get to decide what age that will be. Silly. Petty. Unrealistic.

Beef

Interesting comments from people who feel righteous in their assessment of the cause of suicide.
While all comments are relevant and useful, they ignore the fundamental part of the story.
This suicide is not about transgender issues.
This is about a young person making a bad and permanent choice.
My heart grieves for everyone who loves her.

TimmyG

This is a tragic story, it's terrible when anyone takes their life, but someone so young and bright and full of life feeling like they have no options other than suicide is just terrible. I went to high school in the 90's, we had a lot of suicides in California and a few months into my freshman year at El Molino, a close friend of mine, Julia, took her life. So I at least understand what her friends are going through. My heart goes out to family and friends of Sage and I hope other kids in her position seek help instead of removing themselves from the board.

Beef

thank you Timmy G

In response to comments about how the newspaper uses gender in a story, we know we are part of an evolving societal conversation. We have strong beliefs about individual freedom and if Anna were able to tell us she preferred to be called Sage and to be identified with a gender neutral pronoun, we would absolutely respect that request and abide by it. Her death raises these and other troubling issues facing teens these days, including how to prevent someone from taking their own life as a resolution. We welcome any information that improves the public’s understanding of the issues that consumed the life of a 14-year-old.

SmallTalk

See, they did tell us that. They didn't tell everyone. The general public doesn't have all the facts, their friends and family do. Sage was genderfluid.

Fig20

This article needs to be taken off, or edited to provide the correct information. (Pronouns, names, and accurate info taken with permission instead of off their social media.)

NoOffense

And a few more facts wouldn't hurt, either. Did she use her parents medications to do this? Did someone provide her with illegal drugs to do this? Suicide is not something easy to do. It often results in a live, but damaged, survivor. People often try to use a gun and only wound themselves severely but survive. Did she self strangulate (hang) ? The "how" of this event is part of the story. You know the rules on writing: Who, what, HOW, why, when, where?

SmallTalk

Also, I would like to mention that the author had absolutely no access to any of this. A lot of this is made up. Sage didn't kill themselves at their mom's, they did at their dad's. A few days ago, this reporter came to our school without permission to take some pictures of the memorial we set up. Also, the author had no permission to post anything from Madi's instagram or Rebekah's facebook. Lastly, the name. Sage is constantly misgendered, and gender dysphoria was a leading reason to why they committed suicide, and as a member of the trans community, it is insulting that you refuse to acknowledge that.

0xDEAD BEEF

I agree with all of this. The author simply (in my opinion) didn't have enough evidence to even write this article.

NoOffense

Reporters write about observations and about what they were told. Articles are not based upon "evidence." :)

NoOffense

Like it or not, you don't control events of our world. Reporters have a job to do and nothing is more annoying that a self appointed, self righteous person saying the reporter "needs permission" ...

queersardonicrat

While I'm at it, I'll add that Madi is not a girl either. They're also part of the trans/non-binary community and they use gender-neutral pronouns. The fact that you're misgendering both Sage and their significant other is appalling.

NoOffense

The victim as a female. Get over it.

NoOffense

She was born a female. That makes her a female. Sorry for your failure to understand and accept this world that you live in.

SmallTalk

Okay I'm sorry, but have you not read a single comment? Are you completely oblivious that transphobia like your own is literally a reason Sage commuted suicide? I have been reading a few other of your comments, and your sense of entitlement is childlike, especially for someone who didn't know Sage, which is obvious in the way you blatantly disrespect their memory by commenting something that would've hurt Sage, even after they're dead. Take your hate somewhere else, please, so that people who are grieving don't have to deal with you, too.

queersardonicrat

This is disgusting. Trans and non-binary people are at a much higher risk of suicide and self-harm, yet this article misgenders Sage throughout the entire thing. Sage was not a nickname. It should not be in quotes. Sage was their name. Say it. Write it. Call them who they are, call them Sage.

Sage, I'm so sorry I didn't take the time to know you better. I'm sorry that I barely knew you. I'm sorry that another one of our trans bothers, sisters, and siblings had to die to make me realize that you are someone I should have loved. Rest in power.

SmallTalk

And, by the way, the "Sushi Roles not Gender Roles" shirt was not home made.

NoOffense

How petty you are. Seriously. A young girl dies and you waste your time posting about a T-shirt. So petty. So narrow minded.

Miles Byrne

By adding the prefix "homemade" to the authors description of Sage's T-Shirt isn't just superfluous detail- it establishes their supercilious tone and screams pretentious maturity regarding suicide. Yes, a girl killed herself; yes, it was tragic; and yes, she was part of the transgender community, which is becoming an important topic of an evolving global social conversation. By pretending Sage was somehow alone in her crusade for transgender rights and acceptance is ridiculous and is going just going to make it easier for Sage's death to become a simple statistic. People need to realize and become aware of the sorts of things than can lead up to a suicide, and failing to recognize them by misrepresenting their cause the plight of the individual is just lame. Also, your literally arguing with people Sage's age who were close to her in her OWN SUICIDE ARTICLE. So just do us all a favor and leave, except if I met you in person I wouldn't say leave...

datsun

This child is being mis-named and misgendered by the article. Sage wasn't just a nickname, but a preferred name, and the child identified with gender neutral pronouns of they/them. Transgender and nonbinary youth are at extremely high risk of being bullied, suffering depression, and attempting or committing suicide. It is disrespectful to this child's memory to identify them with incorrect pronouns.

Kristind

Finally, a title change. You're getting there 🙄

Fig20

Why wasn't anything done sooner about this situation? Sage has posted on their social media a picture of the "stay alive challenge" and semicolon, and it was quite apparent they had gone through a lot. So why do we think that NOW is the time to speak up about suicide? It should have been a long time ago. Sage was very closely connected to my best friend, it it breaks my heart to hear about what happened to Sage, and what everyone is going through. As for their family, I am so sorry. Sage will be missed. But please keep spreading awareness. Please support and love eachother
;

Kristind

Fig20, do you know for a fact that nothing was done sooner? That's an awfully rude and accusatory statement to make towards the family.

myaimistrue

I'm going to make a big assumption that you, too, are a child, so I will be kind about this, though I feel incredibly angry.
I know nothing crueler than to accuse a grieving family of "not doing anything" when their child takes their own life. Maybe you didn't intend it to be cruel, but it is. You have no knowledge that nothing was done. You know nothing about what her family did for her. You only think you do.
For the author and editor, perhaps this is why we shouldn't source our stories exclusively from social media, especially that of a minor. And perhaps, maybe we should get permission from the minor's family before posting the pictures and screen shots from their social media accounts.

Fig20

I'm sorry about my what it seemed like I was saying, but I am not accusing their family. I think the county's schools could have done a better job at preventing this, earlier. My apologies.

Miles Byrne

Oops. Typed that before reading your reply. Blaming the schools is still pointless and only moves us backwards though- they were not the one's who killed Sage. That was society, which seems to weed out the best of us and throw us away. Strange world.

Miles Byrne

I understand your grief- but myaimistrue's point is as a true as their name. That there is "nothing crueler" than accusing a grieving family of "not doing anything" is not a hyperbole- it is truly among the worst things that can happen to a person. Continuing for the rest of one's life thinking that YOU were the cause of your child's death is incredibly difficult and makes for an existence perfused with biting misery and distorted culpability. Put yourselves in the shoes of the parents, particularly the father, momentarily- living out the rest of your years yoked by impossible regret and emotional penitence. Living with guilt generated by a child's suicide is worse than not living at all. While the late Sage has all of my respect, you must also understand that her suicide caused much more harm to her parents lives, particularly that of her father's, than it ever alleviated from hers, not that it is the right thing to do in any scenario. Sage was fourteen when she died- fourteen years old. Were she twenty, it might have been a little different, but not much. Killing yourself as an adult is less traumatic for the people around you as you have a larger slice of life to reject. Fourteen is far to young to make decisions- I suspect chemical imbalances, intermittent bipolar episodes of bipolar depression and hormonal angst that accompanied her bi-gendered stress were what severed Sage's straining lifeline. Suicide and blame are the two greatest dissolvers of the ability for a parent to move on from the death of a child, no matter how hard they try- Sage's untimely (understatement) suicide has cursed them for the rest of their lives.

P.S.: I'm sure you didn't mean to be cruel, but suicide isn't just the death of one person- part of Sage's parents will be buried with our lamented comrade. I was extremely upset by Sage's death as well, but maybe that's because I'm feeling the pain of her/her ('s) parents along with their passing.

E410

I am dismayed that you would quote someone from group therapy. The tone deafness of using that in an article is incredibly disheartening. Any form of therapy , group or private, should be sacred and not used to drive clicks. This bright and shining star lost her battle. The author needs to take a giant step back and dig deep for how they would like their family members to be written about if this happened to them. Be a force for good, not gossip.

Kristind

It's nice to see that this article has been revised to be a bit more tactful that originally written. When I first read the article yesterday, my reaction was that of anger, shock & disbelief that the writer could be so insensitive to Anna's family, however it has been edited to be slightly more useful and not quite as harsh. I still don't agree with pulling quotes from Anna's FB or her Mother's, for that matter...and I believe the title could be a bit more sensitive as well. Keep trying.

SmallTalk

Please, call them Sage. They came out as genderfluid a few months ago and now you can at least give them the respect towards their identity that most people didn't give them when they were alive. Also, I find it completely insulting to Sage's memory that people are literally fighting in the comments of their suicide article. Does that mean nothing to you? Show some respect.

NoOffense

So, just curious. How many times to you go back and re-read news articles? And how many times do you go back and spend time posting comments?

Whynot1234

And I thought the post from Maisce was really uncalled for. This is news worthy. A girl lost her life. That is news worthy. Nothing was said derogatory about Sage or her family. I think you owe the author an apology

Grover1234

Interesting. You think that the author needs an apology for the comments .
But not the family for the lack of courtesy of the author failing to ask permission to share this information with the world? To even notify them ,would have been something.To check that all the family had been notified maybe?.You don't feel this child should have her privacy of her Instagram account protected, because she died the previous day? But you feel that the journalist who wrote this ,needs an apology ?

Whynot1234

I don't normally write on these articles, but I couldn't help thinking, as I read this, "What a great job the author did in conveying the message that this was a person. This was not just another statistic. The news has to be reported. I think the author did a wonderful job in writing it.

Miles Byrne

Are you implying that everyone else who is part of "the statistic" is not a person? Because it certainly seems like it.

NoOffense

I thought the article was mostly fine although lacking the "how" that has always been required in writing i.e. Who, what, where, how, when. Did she die by using street drugs, or stolen meds from her parents, etc? A part of the 'who' was missing as well. She was born a female. And "gender fluid" is nothing more than a stupid, silly term that someone dreamed up. Its not uncommon, even in yesteryear, for adolescents to experiment in their sexuality. Thats not "gender fluid." lol. Thats simply a young human being learning about his/her surroundings.

klynn

This article should be removed until the parents consent is received to pull social media as sources for an article; it is minors' social media accounts you are sourcing.

Additionally, what the school releases to the students and students families directed to those immediately impacted should be shared at the discretion of the school and school board.

They are a minor and severely missed. The parents and guardians wishes should be regarded in how this tragedy is handled and expressed, if at all, to the public via any media source.
This is truly in poor taste and disrespectful towards those who know, love, miss, are grieving, and processing this tragedy. I agree with @maisce

Meanwhile, it it Mental Health Awareness Month - why not focus on that ? And not using a minor without a parents' consent as a platform for this.
Please be respectful.

NoOffense

Its a news item, friend. News media do not need your permission to write about a news event.

Miles Byrne

You would think a local news organization would have the DECENCY to ask the family. But I imagine your unfamiliar with the word decency, so I suppose I'm just wasting my time.

maisce

I REALLY hope that you took the time to ask for permission from her grieving family to write this article.
This is is the most incredible pain that a parent can experience, so I would hope that you did your due diligence in honouring this amazing girl's life as well as the devastation her family and friends are experiencing, rather than just lazily scouring social media accounts to obtain your information.

Please show some class and humanity and allow her family to grieve their precious girl in private.

At the very least, change the title of your article to reflect the tragic loss of an amazing spirit in the community instead of the circumstances of her death.

SmallTalk

Unfortunately, they did not. I have been in contact with many of the sources that this article sited and none of them gave their consent.

NoOffense

Nobody needs "consent" to have their words reported. And the fact that you have spent time sticking your nose where it does not belong is far worse than any of this.

NoOffense

News media have a job to do. They don't need your permission to report on an event. Nor do they need the family permission. And, there was nothing in this article that was outside of standard reporting descriptions. You people who think "permission" is needed have been living with the cows too long. Way too long.

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