Hotline stickers remind students help is a call away - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Hotline stickers remind students help is a call away

June 3rd, 2019 development
Hotline stickers remind students help is a call away

By Kayla Rutledge
Staff Writer

Along with creating a new department focused on mental health, Chandler Unified School District has put teen hotline stickers on all of its buses to ensure students in distress have someone to turn to.

The district created the Counseling and Social Services Department to support students emotionally and developmentally and will be deploying social workers in high schools to further help their mental health.

Student activists and mental health advocates have been pressing districts statewide to allocate more resources to help teens deal with social and emotional issues.

Left unattended, such issues can provoke school shootings and teen suicides. Moreover, those problems can be exacerbated by summer break, when troubled students not only lose contact with friends but lose the support they may find in school.

“Sadly, we’re in a circumstance where we have lost students to suicide, and one death is too many. So, we wanted to figure out what we could do to ensure students know they can reach out for help,” said department director Brenda Ramos.

Students at CUSD high schools currently have the Teen Lifeline phone number on their identification cards.

Ramos said it was an important time to ensure students have access to resources before leaving for summer break.

“During that transition time, that time that they have to sit there and think when they’re not with their friends or focusing on school work, are times when problems arise. So, we want them to know before this summer hibernation period and they’re at home or isolated that they know they can reach out for help,” she said.

Among students aged 15 to 19 in Arizona, 12.4 teens per 100,000 died from suicide in 2018. The number is far higher than the national average of 8.9 teens per every 100,000, according to the United Health Foundation.

Jennica Failner, a crisis services associate at Teen Lifeline, said combating teen suicide starts with finding a medium for kids that gives them the confidence to seek help.

“When students call the number on these stickers they can choose to give as much or as little information about themselves as they wish. They can also text the same number so they’re not faced with having to talk with a person directly if that makes them more comfortable,” said Failner.

Sarah Garcia, who just graduated from Perry High School, said she struggled with thoughts of suicide earlier in her high school career and called the stickers a vital resource.

“I reached out to Teen Lifeline and they really helped me out a lot. I know people can really struggle when trying to find out but I think by putting these stickers on the buses we can give people resources,” Sarah said.

“They need to know they have somewhere to turn to if they can’t turn to their friends or their family,” she added.

Sarah’s close friend, Emily Pearce, also a new Perry grad, said the stickers also serve the purpose of reducing the stigma surrounding mental health.

“I think the more people see there are options other than self harm and other than suicide they won’t feel so alone in whatever they’re facing. If we get the word out like ‘yeah people do struggle emotionally and that’s okay,’ everyone will benefit from it,” said Emily.

Casteel High freshmen RJ Ramos and Zach Defoe said the stickers will have a lasting effect on their peers for years to come.

“We’re just freshmen, you know, so there are going to be a lot of things maybe our friends won’t want to talk about in the years to come that maybe they should. [The stickers] let them know if they don’t want to come to us they don’t necessarily have to,” said Zach.

RJ agreed, and added, “I think this is important because it helps students understand that there is help and there is hope. We’re not alone and there are resources.”