FORT WORTH, Texas– Victor Contreras is on a mission to increase the understanding of mental health among students. The ILTexas Keller-Saginaw High School counselor hosted a 4-day presentation on suicide awareness and prevention methods. The goal was to provide 9th and 10th grade students with a better understanding of warning signs and how they can help.

“The presentation is really designed to ensure that students understand risk factors and what are some warning signs, so [students] can see it amongst themselves and their peers,” he said. “It's also for them to know what to do in case they are able to see those risk signs or those warning signs for them to know who to contact.”

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time focused on acknowledging those affected by suicide and connecting people with resources for prevention. According to the 2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, suicide was the second leading cause of death among adolescents aged 10-14, and the third leading cause for 15-24-year-olds. 

For Mary Albritton, Executive Director of Counseling Services at ILTexas, recognizing warning signs ahead of time is key.

“[If] the student always made really good grades [and] all of a sudden grades are dropping, [or] a student has always had good attendance and they stopped coming to school . . . that's when it's time to alert someone,” she said. “That's when you want to ask that individual, how they're feeling, and I think that's one of the things that we want to educate our parents on because no one knows their child better than they do.”

For Contreras, the most important thing for students to know about suicide prevention is to reach out for help.

“This is an opportunity for all of us to give that space for students to feel comfortable,” he said. “There is help. There is hope. And what we're trying to avoid is making sure that they don't hold [emotions in] and that they have at least one person to go to.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 9-8-8, or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

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