DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The pandemic is having a profound impact on the well-being and mental health of young people.
A recent CDC report shows 25% of young people said they had seriously considered suicide during this time.
“Right here in Texas, we know that suicide is the third leading cause of death for even kiddos as young as 10 to 14,” said Kristi Wiley, program director for the Jordan Elizabeth Harris Foundation.
The foundation is on a mission to shine a light on suicide and depression. One of their main initiatives is Hope Squad, a peer-to-peer suicide prevention program.
“We’re teaching Hope Squad members,” Wiley said. “We’re educating and empowering them with the tools to know the warning signs of suicide and then get that friend connected with a trusted adult.”
Hope Squad operates in 88 schools in Tarrant County and seven surrounding counties.
When classrooms shut down in March, the organization sprang into action to find ways to take their training online, spreading hope from home.
“My biggest worry during this time is there’s a fear of not reaching out to someone who’s struggling because you’re afraid to say something wrong,” said Wiley. “So we just started having a bunch of support groups virtually with our Hope Squad advisors.”
The foundation has been working closely with schools to figure out how to implement Hope Squad in the new year. Counselors at several districts, including Birdville ISD, are also setting up their own virtual classrooms to give resources to students and parents.
“We’ve been able to really promote a lot of mental health awareness and just some mindful, social and emotional learning,” said Michelle Broadwater, coordinator of crisis intervention with Birdville ISD. “There’s so many unknowns and so many uncertainties, so to just take that step back and breathe and know that this is a new situation for everyone.”
The current situation may require more conversations about mental health, including teaching people three simple tools to prevent suicide: Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR).
“We have been doing virtual QPR since the beginning of the pandemic,” Wiley said.
Since March, nearly a thousand people have taken the free training course. The foundation will continue to provide the class through the end of the year for anyone who wants to learn how to recognize the warning signs and save a life.
Click here for more information on virtual classes.
Another good resource is the Crisis Text Line.
Anyone can text HOME to 741741 at any time to speak to a trained, licensed counselor.