NEWS9 Special Assignment: Teen Suicide

    See what a local school district is doing to help prevent teen suicides.<p>{/p}

    Suicide is the second leading cause of death in teens.

    Roughly 4,600 people ages 10-24 end their own lives each year.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 percent of high school students nationwide report to have seriously considered suicide.

    It's a growing problem among youth in America, an issue schools can play a key role in solving.

    “It takes the whole team,” said Ashley Doren, a school counselor in the Harrison Hills City School District.

    She's one of several lines of defense trying to keep kids from self-harm.


    Tiffany Stock is the school-based mental health therapist. She and others in the district have dealt with suicide before, and they are on the front lines of preventing it from happening again.

    “A lot of the students we deal with are depressed. It's not always related to bullying,” she said.

    But why do so many students consider suicide?

    According to, depression can play a major factor, as can other psychological issues.

    Other reasons include a family history of suicide, a feeling of isolation and abuse -- emotional, physical, or sexual.

    The latter can come in the form of bullying, both in person and online.

    “Mostly name calling on social media, or inappropriate comments on social media. Our most referrals come from social media,” Harrison Central Principal Ken Parker said.

    "I don't think in the jr. high age bracket, they really understand how powerful it can be, how negative it can be,” he said. “I think at the high school level, they understand.”

    The district is taking a proactive approach, and new technology has a lot to do with it.

    At Harrison Hills, each student -- no matter the age -- has a school-issued laptop.

    And recently, the district started using a monitoring program -- one that tracks activity 24 hours a day, looking for key words and searches that may raise red flags. The district averages around two reports a month.

    "Initially, I was amazed at the amount of emails we were getting with concerns,” Harrison Hills City School District Superintendent Dana Snider said. “That was concerning me. What do we do on the weekend, the legality of all this?"

    Snider is talking about the first alert, an email to administrators. Then, if it's serious enough, law enforcement is notified.

    “We don't do that monitoring right now; it's trained psychologists, sociologists who look at a pattern of behavior,” she said.

    But it's not just new tech keeping an eye on the well-being of students.

    About 8 years ago, the district received a grant allowing it to hire a truancy officer and a preventionist.

    “There is a high link to students who don't attend school and problems in the school setting,” Snider said.

    The truancy officer keeps an eye on absences and is what Snider calls the first line of defense. He's responsible for reaching out to the student and his or her family and identifying a problem.

    It's an effective strategy. So effective, Snider says, after the grant money ran out 4 years ago, the district found the finances to keep both positions on a permanent basis.

    Most effective, however, is students helping students.

    “We normally get reports first from peers. They'll let us know if kids are being mean to each other online,” Doren said.

    “I think we have a lot less instances of bullying than when I started here.”

    Now, not all flagged incidents involve a student actually looking to self-harm. Sometimes it's a web search for a class project or lyrics to a song that sound the alarm.

    The CDC asks anyone who knows of a friend who may be considering suicide, or if you are yourself, to call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline number at 1-800-273-TALK.

    There is also a crisis text line. Send "4HOPE" to 741741.

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