Programs in Schools Aim to Prevent Youth Suicide

Amid the pandemic and return to school are concerns that the disturbing trend of teen suicide will continue

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Almost two dozen schools have added new resources this school year to help curb a problem that's been growing in the shadow of COVID-19: youth suicide.

In Fort Worth, Cook Children's Hospital says in the first seven months of this year, they've admitted and treated 261 children and teens who attempted suicide.

Last year, that number was 143 in the same time period.

22 North Texas schools have signed up to create Hope Squads on their campus for the new school year.

Hope Squads are made up of students, selected by their peers, who are trained on how to spot signs that another student may be in need of help.

"What we know about children is seven out of 10 of them are going to tell someone they're suicidal. It's generally not an adult. What the Hope Squad program does is it provides student-peers to be able to look for, listen, be able to talk to those students and if they're struggling, find adult help immediately," said Executive Director of The Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation Christina Judge.

The Foundation administers the program for more than half of the 152 North Texas schools that have implemented it.

"Suicide can be prevented and it's one of the worst outcomes we can have in mental health," said Cristian Zeni, MD, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the UTHealth Center of Excellence on Mood Disorders.

"If you notice a child is not sleeping as they did before or if they're crying more than usual, if they start complaining about physical problems, they're not feeling well, with unspecific complaints," said Zeni," those should trigger attention that your kid may be suffering from mental health problems associated with COVID."

The Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation offers free online training for parents or anyone who wants to learn how to spot and help someone who might be suicidal.

Also, the suicide prevention crisis line is available at 1-800-273-TALK.

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