Stopping Student Suicide, Mental Health Awareness

Ceci Partridge

There have been at least four suicide deaths by Southern California high-school aged students since August of this year. All of those students started the school year in a Rancho Cucamonga school district and attended different schools.

Mental health experts say the number is alarming and becoming more prevalent in our youth.

“Well, it’s growing, it’s happening,” says Clint Ross a therapist in Palm Desert.

The Lucile Packard Foundation reports between 2013 and 2015, 20% of Palm Springs Unified School District staff disagreed that the schools emphasized helping students with emotional and behavioral problems.

However, in 2018 the PSUSD decided there was a need to offer more resources in addition to risk assessment and on-campus mental health therapists.

“Just this year,” started PSUSD student therapist Dr. Anne Kalisek, “we’re rolling out a new suicide prevention curriculum, it will be in grades 5, 7 and 10.”

“It’s a self-esteem builder, it’s who do you talk to, just really making sure that students have just those regular resources in their everyday lives.”

And while the district has added three more mental health therapists Kalisek says there can always be more help from the community.

“I think we as adults tend to think of trained people. Counselors, therapists, those type of things, but really, for students, it’s any one individual.”

Ross says there are clear warning signs in most individuals who are looking for help with physical or sexual abuse, being a victim of bullying or medical issues.

“It’s okay to ask them, do you feel suicidal, or hey, you haven’t been yourself lately,” says Ross.

He adds before speaking with a child there are a few things to remember:

  • Get a hold of your emotions
  • Keep communication open and direct
  • Listen to their distress
  • Stay calm
  • Normalize their experience
  • Create a solution
  • Do not dictate the solution
  • Call a suicide hotline
  • Get medical attention, from a mental health therapist or medical doctor

“See problems to a minor may be very, very serious,” says Ross. “We as adults, we might listen to their problems and say ‘ there’s nothing to it, that’s not a big deal,’ but it can be to a young person.”

And the young person that may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, Ross suggests looking at life like a strip of movie film.

“Every frame is different.”

Today’s frame doesn’t have to be the same as tomorrow’s.

“A lot of us can relate, and those of us that have gotten through it, we can help.”


Call 911 or Call the following hotlines 24 hours per day:

National: 1-800-SUICIDE
Riverside County: 1-800-843-5200
Military Veterans: 1-800-273-TALK (press 1)
LGBT Youth: 1-866-4-U-TREVOR

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