Elementary, middle and high schools throughout the Paradise Valley Unified School District have taken a stand to save lives.
“I got a call from a student while I was on a ski vacation in Utah telling me that another student had hanged herself. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever dealt with,” said Yvonne Perot, an advanced placement English and psychology teacher at Horizon High School.
In April, student body presidents from each of the six high schools in the PVUSD named Sept. 10, 2015, Suicide Prevention Day and designated that staff and teachers in the district undergo training to help them talk to their students about suicide.
Stemming from this decision, teachers and staff were given a training video the first week of August to equip them to address suicide and suicide prevention with their students throughout the month of September.
The instructional videos, donated by Kognito, include three levels: elementary, middle and high school. The videos provide content tailored to match the development level of the students within each grade.
The videos are interactive, providing scenarios where the user — teachers — interacts with an avatar — student — and receives guidance on how to identify unusual behavior, initiate conversations and refer students to help — counselors — along the way.
The elementary school level also gives teachers and staff strategies on how to talk with parents.
A 2009 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found suicide to be the third most common cause of death for teenagers and that 14 percent of high school students have seriously considered suicide while over six percent have attempted.
These initiatives by the PVUSD serve to bring awareness to the widespread issue of adolescent suicide and to equip teachers and staff to prevent it.
“Too many think that (suicide) only happens in other people’s neighborhoods or lives. In reality, suicide knows no boundaries of any kind. Every aspect of society is impacted,” said Perot.
It is not known whether the initiatives have been put in to place in districts outside of PVUSD or whether these initiatives will be in place during the next school year.
“I certainly hope so! It’s so important to be there for our students,” said Drew Davis, the director of student services at PVUSD.
Another precaution the district has made to ensure student safety is to include the phone number for Teen Lifeline, a 24/7 crisis resource, on the back of all high school student ID badges.
Moving forward, high school student governments plan to create and implement more student-centered efforts to bring awareness to the public and to help fellow students.
“Education is the first step to prevention. The most important message is, you’re not alone, there is someone out there who cares about you and is there for you, you always have options,” said Perot.
Editor’s note: Ms. Clark is a journalism student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism
Editor's Note: Ms. Clark is a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.