CADDO PARISH, LA (KSLA) - Children and teens spend significant time at school — putting school leaders in a prime position to recognize the signs of suicide and risk factors.
In fact, leaders at Caddo Parish Schools say children and teens can spend up to 10 hours a day at school, and depending on after-school activities — it can be longer. Mental health experts and school counselors work year round to empower school personnel to better support students at risk and students who are affected by suicide.
"Suicide is actually the second leading cause of death among children somewhere between the ages of 10 and 21, and it only follows behind accidents and that's really kind of scary," said Caddo Parish District Psychologist Dr. Barzanna White.
According to Dr. White, the front line of defense really are the teachers.
"We want to make sure that we do all we can to prevent, what we consider most to be a preventable situation," Dr. White said.
White added suicide prevention starts with destigmatizing mental health issues.
"Mental health issues have to be treated if you want a child to be a great kid, and to be able to learn academically, and to be successful in life and to be able to participate fully in sports," Dr. White said.
The next step is education.
"For high school, this year we implemented the signs of suicides program which was about 4 1/2 hours of intensive training," Dr. White explained.
"This is more in depth, I think it gives us more insight, more information and more tools," said Captain Shreve High School Counselor Rosemary Day.
Day has seen first hand how suicide can affect an entire school.
"We had one several years ago that we really didn't know this was happening, I don't think her friends did either, right before graduation," Day recalled.
Putting students' needs first is something Huntington High School Counselor Retrina Mays and her counterparts strive to do every day, but they can't do it alone.
"A lot of times when I call the parents they are in denial that their child is having those tendencies," Mays said. "Until they get there, and we sit down, we talk, and we educate them. The parents need to be educated and know that this is real."
Day, White and Mays agree that an open line of communication between teachers and parents can help detect early risks.
"Sometimes schools are not aware that there are other issues going on at home," said Dr. White, "Anytime a child has difficulty with the ability to live, to laugh or to learn then we need to step in and see what's going on."