The Jerry Minnick that most of the students at Hayfield Secondary School knew was the popular, partygoing teenager who liked to wrestle competitively and roar down the road on his motorcycle.

And then there was the Jerry Minnick who, like many of his peers, hid his pain: The youngster whose natural mother killed herself before he got to kindergarten, who later became unhappy at his adoptive home, who eventually became a ward of the court and who felt abandoned and rejected at every turn.

Tuesday morning, as his classmates were studying inside, both Jerry Minnicks died when the 18-year-old Hayfield senior deliberately drove his motorcycle full-speed into the wall of the Fairfax County school building.

Jerry Minnick's death represents one of the most violent, most public suicide routes a teenager can pick, and the first time that a student has killed himself on Fairfax school grounds. Shocked by its nature, experts worry that other young men or women might see his grisly demise as somehow romantic or something to emulate.

"It won't make someone suicidal who has not been figuratively standing on the ledge," said Alan L. Berman, a former president of the American Association of Suicidology who now works at the Washington Psychological Center and teaches at American University. "But for someone who is not doing well . . . this can serve as a triggering mechanism for their own self-destructiveness."

The portrait that has emerged from interviews with Minnick's friends, teachers, family members, social worker and psychologist is one of a deeply disturbed young man who had attempted suicide before but who often spurned efforts to help him.

He was always friendly, but he kept others at arm's length because, it seemed to him, everyone who had ever become close had hurt him, according to those who knew him.

Minnick viewed himself as chronically abandoned, said Ronald S. Federici, a clinical child psychologist who saw Minnick for most of last year. "I think he just gave up on people and relationships . . . . The only friends Jerry had were superficial, people who liked to party with him . . . . Everybody who he ever got close to in his life has dumped on him, rejected him, abandoned him."

While he was a generally passive person, Minnick chose the most aggressive possible suicide route out of pent-up anger, Federici said.

"It was the ultimate act of revenge against the world that in his view has {dumped} on him," he said. "It was a statement to the world: Go to hell."

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death after traffic accidents for people ages 15 to 24, and the federal government records roughly 5,000 suicides a year for that age group. However, experts note that for every suicide, there are more than 100 attempts.

In 1987, the most recent year for which there are data, the National Center for Health Statistics reported eight youth suicides in the District of Columbia, 105 in Maryland and 137 in Virginia.

In some ways, Jerry Minnick's death illustrates many teenage suicides, experts said. Rather than killing themselves out of pique over one incident, most suicidal teenagers are reacting to a culmination of pent-up frustrations and depression.

"It's almost always a combination of things," said Myra Herbert, social work coordinator for the Fairfax County schools. "Sometimes there's one thing that just puts somebody over the edge, but you always have to look at what's going on with the family, what's going on socially, academically, all of it."

Minnick's mother committed suicide in 1975, and his father abandoned Jerry and his brother, John, now 19, at a very early age. The two boys were adopted and moved from Ohio to Northern Virginia about eight years ago, but they chafed at the strict discipline and religious devotion of their adoptive parents, according to John Minnick and some friends.

"We were having some problems here at home -- typical teenage stuff," said his adoptive father, Bruce Minnick, a training instructor for Metro and a devout Mormon. "He didn't want to live by the rules. He wanted out."

The elder Minnick said he and his wife, Virginia, tried fervently to help the two boys, but the relationship became more strained as they neared adulthood and ran away from home more than once. In March 1989, after running away, Jerry Minnick was placed in court custody and then in the foster home of Ed Seward, of Franconia.

"We were between a rock and a hard spot," Bruce Minnick said. "You take the hard spot to do what you can for the kid. We had absolutely, positively no choice. Period. The only way we could get help for the kid was to go to the court."

The schism left Jerry Minnick bitter toward his adoptive parents, according to interviews. His social worker, Joe Pasquariello, said he could not discuss the case in detail but called it a "double abandonment."

"An adopted abandonment is worse than a natural abandonment," he said.

The elder Minnick said he was disturbed by the impression left by his son's long suicide note, which singled out his parents in a hostile manner. "The inference is that we didn't do squat," Bruce Minnick said. "And that just is not true . . . . From age 6 to age 17, we did all we could to provide a good, nurturing home."

During his junior year, Jerry Minnick conceived a baby with a girlfriend, but was estranged from her at the time the child was due to be born last November.

"He was so happy that he had the baby," said Federici, the psychologist. "He thought it would be something that would finally be his."

Feeling rejected and excluded from his baby son, Christopher, Minnick swallowed a handful of aspirin and other household medicine in a suicide attempt, according to Federici and his adoptive father. Seward found him and rushed him to a hospital.

Minnick attended follow-up treatment for a while and seemed to be improving, but Federici said the last time he had a therapy session was Dec. 11.

Federici said Minnick suffered from anhedonic depression -- meaning he derived no pleasure from otherwise pleasant things -- and noted that his first report on the youth in March 1989 mentioned the risk of "suicidal thoughts."

But, he said, Minnick refused to let anyone help. Because he was 18, he could not be committed for psychiatric treatment and he refused to seek substance abuse treatment for his drinking and marijuana smoking, Federici said. He also refused to accept anti-depressant medication.

His dying wish, in the suicide note he left with his red helmet before he roared down the Hayfield track into the building, was to be buried next to his mother in Youngstown, Ohio, according to his brother and others.

Minnick's suicide, and its extremely public nature, have raised the fear of copycat episodes.

"Generally, an incident like that won't make someone suicidal who isn't already thinking about suicide," said Pattie Schneeman, director of the Crisis Intervention Hot Line for the Mental Health Association in Alexandria. "The normal kid, who's just having problems, isn't going to say, 'Oh, that sounds cool. I think I'll go out and do the same thing.' "

But for those who are troubled, it can serve as the trigger.

"They think, 'Maybe I can get attention from my distant father or my alcoholic mother if I do this,' " said Diane M. Ryerson, who helped found the school-based Adolescent Suicide Awareness Program in New Jersey eight years ago. "It becomes, in a sense, a blueprint of action."

Experts warned that adults sometimes underestimate the depth of adolescents' depression and that teenagers need support. They stressed that help is available from teachers, guidance counselors, psychologists or even friends.

At Hayfield this week, staff members are striving to draw out students who might have been affected by Minnick's death, whether they knew him or not.

"The kids are doing real well," said Principal J. Victor Lutz. "The kids are in class and those who need support, it's being provided. And I couldn't be prouder of our students . . . {for} coming together."

The following are numbers to call if you know of someone who may be contemplating suicide:

D.C. Crisis Hot line: 561-7000 (24 hours).

D.C. Hot Line: 223-2255 (24 hours).

Psychiatric Institute of Washington (a private psychiatric hospital): 467-HOPE (4673) 24 hours.

Samaritans of Washington Suicide Hot Line: 362-8100 (24 hours).

Northwest Center: 481-4100 (24-hour emergency service).

Montgomery County Crisis Center: 656-9161 (24 hours).

Montgomery County Hot Line: 738-2255 (24 hours).

Prince George's Hospital Crisis Center: 322-2606 (24 hours).

Prince George's Suicide Prevention Center crisis line: 731-0004 (24 hours).

Howard County: Grassroots: 531-6677 (24 hours).

Woodburn Mental Health Center: 573-5679 (24-hour emergency service).

Mount Vernon Center: 360-6910 (24-hour emergency service).

Loudoun County: 777-0320 (24-hour emergency service).