LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - This year, every student in the Long Beach School District will be learning about a sensitive and serious topic: Teen suicide. In years past, the district has hosted speakers and held small group discussions on suicide-related topics at the high school and middle school. This year, the district wanted to reach all 3,100 children in Long Beach schools.
On Tuesday, guidance counselors kicked-off a district-wide program with a lesson that could help save a life.
"A couple of my friends, they've done self harm. They've had thoughts of suicide. And luckily in the past, I have been informed of some of the warning signs of it," said Long Beach High Freshman Trace Bush.
Trace feels fortunate that he was able to help his friends through their personal struggles.
"They got help and they've been getting better over the past several months," said Bush.
In recent years though, the school did lose a student to suicide.
"We know this hits close to home here, as well as schools all across the United States. We just want to let our students know that there are options. There are things that you can do if you feel this way," said Michelle Eleuterius, Long Beach School District Social Worker.
On Tuesday, 13-guidance counselors took their suicide prevention awareness lesson plan into the classrooms. They talked about the warning signs, risk factors, and what to do if the students or their friends are facing feelings of depression, anger or hopelessness.
"We're teaching them skills to kind of change their thoughts, to help them see that maybe if they can take a step back from a situation, that it might not be as bad as we made it in our mind. We're also teaching them it's OK to talk to people," said Eleuterius.
"There are people who want to help and we're trying to teach them to look beyond the here and now, that their life doesn't stop today in the way they're feeling today or yesterday or doesn't end with the family life they have at home, that they have a future," Eleuterius added.
The students also heard a story about a young man who helped another boy who was being bullied. The lesson ended with a challenge to every student to perform a random act of kindness.
"If they see other people struggling like that, it's a really good thing to be able to be there for somebody. Every life is worth living," said Long Beach High Freshman Randee Gamble.
"I learned of more people you could trust. I didn't know there were some of those people you could trust to tell them. I just thought it was counselors and emergency operators," said Trace.
In November, the counselors will take the same lessons to the middle school. They will also talk to the elementary children before Christmas.
"We're going to do it very age-appropriate by addressing resiliency skills, such as self-esteem, how to communicate feelings to family members and friends, what to do if they feel sad or mad, just how to handle those feelings," said Eleuterius. "We just want everybody to know why this is important and what to do if they're struggling with these feelings and thoughts of hopelessness."
Next semester, the lessons will involve more guest speakers, counseling sessions, and promoting positive behavior and character development.