Beverly Hills High School taking suicide prevention to new level

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (KABC) -- Beverly Hills High School is taking an innovative approach on suicide among teens: reaching students before things turn tragic.

The teen suicide rate is rising. It's the second leading cause of death for children, teenagers and young adults.

Experts said four out of five teens give clear warning signs that they're considering suicide.

For incoming freshmen, each day is filled with new adventures and new challenges.

"There really is no rest. Once you hit 9th grade it feels like every single grade and every single choice has these life-long ramifications," said Beverly Hills High School Principal Mark Mead.

Mead said he sees how the pressure to succeed can take its toll on students.

High school senior Alexa Khorshad volunteers at a teen hotline. She notices two stressors that stand out.

"I think school and social media because with social media - you have to live up to a certain expectation," Korshad said.

Stanford researchers say that between 2013 and 2015, an estimated 19 percent of California 9th graders seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous year.

Counselors from the Maple Counseling Center in Beverly Hills are taking part in a three-day Signs of Suicide Program -- or S.O.S -- at Beverly Hills High School.

Freshman are given suicide awareness education and are asked to fill out a questionnaire. Each are given an opportunity to get counseling.

"This is a new thing: seeking them out as opposed to them coming to us, which we have plenty of," Mead said.

Experts say warning signs include noticeable changes in eating and sleeping, withdrawal from family and friends, unexplained severe or rebellious behavior and talking or writing about suicide.

Mead's advice to parents is to embrace the education process because that's what molds students. In other words, don't get too caught up in letter grades.

"Maybe back off a little on the end results all the time because the kids are going to be fine," he said.

Korshad's advice to other students? When you're feeling stressed, reach out.

"Just being able to talk to someone, even call Teen Line," Korshad said. "It just helps."
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