Dozens of students meet with Gov. Edwards to advocate for more teen suicide prevention resources
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - 100 students, parents, and teachers from different schools across Louisiana gathered at the Capitol to promote awareness around teen suicide prevention.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death of Louisiana teens, according to a recent study. The recent increase led a group of young advocates to secure a meeting with Governor John Bel Edwards to discuss possible solutions to address the issue.
Temple Poche was one of the parents in attendance and lost her daughter to suicide in 2018.
“She was 15, and she took her life,” said Poche. “She worked her hardest to not struggle, and we did everything that we possibly could.”
The effort was led by a teen suicide prevention nonprofit called Peer Initiative. The program started in 2015 at Sam House High School in Calcasieu Parish and eventually expanded to Dutchtown High School in Ascension Parish and Iowa High School in Calcasieu Parish.
The young students and advocates spent Tuesday leaning on Gov. Edwards and lawmakers to come up with a bill to provide more funding and resources centered on mental health for their classmates and friends across the state.
“We want to lower these rates, and we know that starts with coming here and advocating,” said Sam Houston High School student Annie Defelice.
“We face a lot of pressures as teenagers today. We’re trying to figure out who we are, we have a million people in our face, and people are continuously piling pressure on us to try to figure out life when most adults don’t have it figured out,” said Sam Houston High School student Lyndsey Young.
One solution proposed to Governor Edwards is adding one counselor dedicated solely to mental health and support in times of crisis in every school in the state.
The student says school counselors today are overworked and overbooked.
”None of them get the chance, or the opportunity to just sit down with a student and ask them about life and just what they’re dealing with, and I think that’s the sad part that they lost that in their profession, and we want to bring that back to some of them,” said Young.
They also want a new mandate to make sure schools are properly training teachers to recognize signs related to suicide.
Supporters believe those changes will save lives.
“I just don’t want another child to feel what she felt on a daily basis,” said Poche.
The group is aiming to have a lawmaker sponsor a bill with their suggestions by next year’s legislative session.
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