Pearland ISD builds on efforts to prevent suicide and raise mental health awareness

Following a decade of stagnant suicide rates in Travis County, health officials are adding new programs to help those experiencing a mental health crisis.

Following a decade of stagnant suicide rates in Travis County, health officials are adding new programs to help those experiencing a mental health crisis.

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Pearland ISD builds on efforts to prevent suicide and raise mental health awareness
After two suicides and one attempt in Pearland ISD this past fall, prevention and recovery methods are more important than ever.

Although the district has implemented prevention and recovery programs for the past several years, officials said that this year the students are stepping up their role in preventing suicides.

Although the district has a suicide-prevention task force, students have formed their own at each of the district’s four high schools. Each high school has a task force of roughly 10 students, officials said.

“We are so proud that the kids are taking ownership and wanting to have a voice and have a choice in these things,” said Kim Hocott, executive director of communications at PISD.

When asked, students at Pearland High School said they appreciated the support of the district but wanted to be able to work on prevention themselves, Hocott said.

“We want to empower our kids. That’s why they have this voice. They are a part of this district,” said Chenda Moore, coordinator of guidance services for the district.

The individual student task forces began this year. The new groups are one of the district’s primary forms of prevention, along with the #iwillASK event, which was piloted last spring.

The acronym ASK stands for Ask about suicide, Seek more information, and Know where and how to refer. PISD has information on its website for those needing resources.

The #iwillASK event was first held at Turner High School and was open to all high school and junior high students.

“We want for our students to help each other and to teach each other how to get help,” Moore said.

The school began the RISE mentoring program in the wake of suicides in the district. The program has almost tripled as it is going on its third year, but it still needs volunteers for the spring semester in 2018.

The program allows a member of the community to mentor a PISD student, focusing on a holistic picture of health.

Some of the reactionary precautions taken after suicides or other districtwide crises include sending counselors from around the district to the schools that need it.

“We have licensed specialists in school psychology there at the campuses there to provide that support for however long it is needed,” Hocott said.

According to Moore, this process is one that the district is constantly evaluating.

“Every year we look at our procedures; after every incident we debrief; we talk about what we did well, how we can improve,” Moore said. “When there is a crisis, we are on call.”

One of the main goals of the campus is to work with the parents and communities in addressing mental health.

“So often people want to say ‘What’s the school doing, what are the school counselors doing?’ We can’t do it alone,” Hocott said. “We want to partner, walk alongside the parents, the kids and the families, and be of some assistance.”

According to Moore, the need for community involvement is one of the reasons Turner High School has the RISE mentoring program, which allows members of the community to mentor students.

“I always say it takes all of us. It takes a village,” Moore said. “It takes all of us to really give that positive encouragement to our students.”

Students have asked for an increase in positive messages and positivity in the ways they treat one another.

The district hosts programs such as the #iwillASK event and Carousel of Resources, which will be held from 5-7 p.m on Feb. 8 at the Virgil Gant Education Support Center, located at 1928 N. Main St., Pearland.

The district also has a list of resources on its Guidance Services webpage under Mental Health Support.

“[The students] know the counselors are available for them when needed,” Moore said.

This year’s #iwillASK event will be from 6-8 p.m. April 26 at Pearland High School.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10-24.

For anyone facing thoughts of suicide, call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).
By Haley Morrison
Haley Morrison came to Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after graduating from Baylor University. She was promoted to editor in February 2019. Haley primarily covers city government.


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