CHS9 taking steps to keep conversation going


Avani Munji

Suicide amongst teens has been an ongoing national crisis in the United States. In order to combat that, CHS9 held suicide prevention week in October to raise awareness. Graphic by Avani Munji

Nyah Rama, Staff Writer

CHS9 held its annual Suicide Prevention Week from Oct.17-.21. Suicide Prevention Week is used to inform students about depression and how to recognize it around them.

CHS9 is trying to keep the conversation on suicide prevention going by integrating social emotional learning strategies and the Signs of Suicide (SOS) program.

The SOS program focuses on four main ideas: 

  1. Depression is treatable
  2. Recognizing the signs of depression
  3. Acknowledge, Care, Tell (ACT)
  4. Turning to others if they need help

“Students will watch age-appropriate video clips and participate in a guided discussion about suicide, and what to do if they are concerned about a friend,” CHS9 Principal Dr. Cody Koontz said. “Counselors will be available for students that need additional support or request to speak to someone after the program.”

ACT is a major priority in SOS for Koontz.

“We focus on ACT a lot: acknowledge, care, tell a trusted adult,” Dr. Koontz said. “Schools are trying to figure out how to embed social emotional learning so that it doesn’t feel so separate. I think some of that can be as simple as teaching GRIT and perseverance because some of those feelings of depression and anxiety come from feelings of failure.”

As a part of a larger initiative for suicide awareness, CHS9 also implemented a new activity into its suicide prevention week curriculum this year, Starts with Hello week which took place from Sept.19-23. 

This is a nation-wide movement to introduce Suicide Prevention Week in schools. Students are tasked with going up to each other and simply saying, “hi.” The hope behind this is that it will make people feel seen and loved, whether they are struggling with their mental health or not.

“It’s a national call to action and part of the Sandy Hook promise and the idea is that it’s a student to student campaign,” Dr. Koontz said. “I think when we really get down to it we realize that we probably have more in common than we do that’s different.”

The goal is also to get students off their phones and more engaged with their peers.

These curriculum weeks are part of a much larger plan passed down through legislation to try and mitigate one of the biggest issues in our nation: high rates of suicide amongst teens.

“Statistically, suicide amongst teens is becoming a bigger problem,” Dr. Koontz said. “I think it’s always been there, but I think now people are more willing to talk about it.”

COVID-19 and the stress students face in high school are also contributing to the increasing numbers some counselors are seeing.

“Suicide among teens might be more prevalent especially when we have higher levels of anxiety and COVID also brought out feelings of loneliness and depression,” CHS9 counselor Katie Walker said.

One of the main problems attributing to this epidemic are the feelings that social media can generate.

“I think that social media is a tool that can be used in a productive way but can also be so harmful to an individual’s mental health,” Coppell ISD Superintendent Dr. Brad Hunt said.

This is not the first time social media has been connected to mental health issues. Not only can it be damaging to a teenager’s psyche but it can also be one of the most dangerous tools at a young, impressionable teen’s disposal.

“For teenagers it’s hard because their worth a lot of times is based on the opinion of people around them,” Dr. Koontz said. “That’s not an insult, it’s just reality. The social media culture that perpetuates that says that my worth can be found based on if I have enough followers or likes or people are checking my story. Sometimes it’s a challenge because we put this image out that may not even accurately represent us and now we base our worth on the opinions of people about someone who we aren’t, teenagers are complex.”

Overall, the CHS9 admins are hoping that Starts with Hello Week and the SOS program bring more awareness to mental health issues and can lift some of the stigma surrounding them.

CHS9 and Coppell ISD are always looking for new ways to bring up mental health in our schools, from partnerships to assemblies, CHS9 is making a concerted effort to try and move the conversation forward.

“We are always looking at ways to do it better and trying to partner with organizations like Hope Squad,”  Dr. Koontz said.

Today, being a teenager can be hard not only for the kids but for the parents as well, Suicide Prevention Week and Hello Week are just some of the steps the district is taking to ensure a better future for all their students.

“It’s hard to be a teenager today,” Dr. Hunt said. “I think it’s important that we recognize talking about suicide doesn’t encourage it, it just means people are talking and being more encouraging to try and keep the conversation going.” 

Follow Nyah Rama (@nyah_rama) and @thesidekickcoppell on Instagram.