Suicide rates are on the rise in the United States, jumping almost 20% between 1999 and 2016.
Here in Texas, a local suicide prevention task force has helped lawmakers write two bills to turn that statistic around.
“If you’re passionate about a topic like this, don’t just sit back and just let something else happen,” said Ashlyn Clark, a freshman at Veterans Memorial High school and a member of the task force. “I would take a stand.”
That’s how the local suicide prevention task force got started, and they’ve already made big changes.
On Wednesday morning, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law declaring September as Suicide Prevention Month in Texas. Another bill he’s expected to sign would require health experts track suicide rates in the state.
The task force is mostly high school students, teachers and counselors. They’re all concerned about the well-being of one another, and all wanted to do something.
“It worries you,” said Kobe Piper, a junior at VMHS who’s also a member of the task force. “You don’t want any of your friends or (don’t want to) see your family go through any of that.”
Students like Piper helped start the task force about six months ago. For him, it’s an issue that hits close to home because he attempted suicide last year.
“When I was going through it, I would put on a mask every day in front of other people,” said Piper. “Because I didn’t want other people to see that I was down.”
The group pushed these bills with the help of State Rep. Todd Hunter, who authored the bill on their behalf.
It was all in the name of making suicide a topic more freely discussed in schools.
“Committing suicide is not the answer,” said Samantha Perez, a junior at VMHS and member of the task force, “because you have a whole life ahead of you so you can get through this.”
The idea behind naming September as Suicide Prevention Month is intentional. It coincides with the beginning of the school year when students deal with change in their lives that could trigger stress, depression or suicidal thoughts.
The task force, along with Rep. Hunter, plans to hold a suicide prevention symposium soon to share their latest efforts. KRIS 6 will keep you posted when that information becomes available.