As the leading cause of death for people ages 15-24, suicide has been a sensitive topic for many to discuss. The Netflix television series “13 Reasons Why” has sparked conversations both online and offline about the sharp increase in suicides or physical harm in teens, which led to schools and districts to address concerns.
Adopted in September 2016, California Assembly Bill 2246, a policy on pupil suicide prevention, states that for the 2017-18 school year, school districts must adopt “a policy on pupil suicide prevention in grades 7 to 12.” As of August 2017, Alhambra Unified School District (AUSD) adopted the policy and began to train teachers on ways to observe and identify risk factors of students that are in need of guidance. Their plan, AR 5141.52, states that staff will also be given resources and services to offer to students when necessary.
“We’re focusing our attention on really engaging with students, actively listening to what they say to assure students,” Laurel Bear, assistant supt. of Student and Employee Welfare, said.
“Students can reach out to any adult on campus and they will help students get the support and help they need so that we can help our kids get into a safer place,” she said.
Student reactions to the plan varied; while students were pleased to have the teachers be trained for suicide prevention, they were also skeptical of its efficiency.
“I think it’s going to be [very] hard for counselors [and teachers] to get a connection from a student, especially since [they] have to bring it up, and what a lot of students want is that privacy,” senior Brizeth Lomeli said. “The teacher would want to help the student but [they] just want someone to talk to.”
Additionally, sophomore Jack Ho states that methods already implemented to help spread awareness are not working.
“Assemblies aren’t that effective because [most students] don’t really care,” Ho said. “They don’t [feel like] this is important to them.”
However, Bear reassures that although they cannot guarantee that they can prevent such behavior, AUSD will do their best to give students what they need to be safe and successful.
“Suicide is not an option; it’s a permanent solution to a very temporary problem,” Bear said. “There isn’t a person on this earth that, at some time or another, does not need someone to speak to. Good mental health is so invaluable at every level, that we want to make sure that we equip our students with the opportunities and the tools to talk to others.”
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.