Bianca Castro

Prosper ISD Implements Changes to Prevent Teen Suicide

The Prosper Independent School District is leading the charge in an effort to change a disturbing trend after losing four teens to suicide in four years.

Faces of loved ones lost to suicide make up the memory wall, a powerful symbol of love displayed at suicide prevention walks like the Out of the Darkness community walk in Prosper in November.

It's Wendy Tyler's third year to co-chair the walk. Her third year without her youngest child Christian.

"He was fighting for his life. I don't think I realized that he was truly fighting for his life. Now I do," said Tyler.

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Back row, left to right, Christian Tyler and Jack Rohwer.
Front row, left to right, Chandler Fetterolf and Braden Speed.

Christian was 15 when he took his life during his first week of his junior year at Prosper High School.

His parents, Wendy and Bruce, said their son dealt with depression at a young age but normal stresses of a teenager became amplified as Christian got older.

"He didn't realize what all he had to offer. He was critical of himself. He didn't think he was good enough, good looking enough, he didn't think he had enough talent," said Wendy Tyler.

They said Christian started to pull away from his friends, yet no one else realized their son was struggling until it was too late.

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Loved ones place photos on a memory wall in Prosper.

Christian's death marked the second suicide within Prosper ISD in two years. Two more students died by suicide the following two years.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens.

Together with parents, school administrators traveled to Utah to learn about the Hope Squad program, a school-based program that trains selected students on how to watch for at-risk kids, provide friendship and identify suicide warning signs.

Prosper ISD now has a Hope Squad at its high school and middle schools and will roll the program out into elementary schools next year.

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Family members hold photos of their loved ones who took their own lives.

"We lost four kids in the last five years and that was devastating because many of those students were my students as a principal. We had to do something for prevention. Not that we can stop it, but we had to do something so that our kids had the support that they needed to get the help they needed, said associate superintendent Holly Ferguson.

The district has also partnered with Children's Health telebehavioral health program, so that students, as young as kindergarteners, can talk with mental health experts through a video conference from the familiar space of their school counselor's office.

They are big changes parent Cathy Speed has been pushing for as well.

Her son Braden is one of the four students whose memories live on and today their memories provide hope that no one has to suffer in silence.

The school district said it has fielded phone calls from other districts all over the country about the changes it's making.

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Family members who've lost loved ones to suicide hug.
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