Sam Houston program aims to eliminate student suicide

Sam Houston program aims to eliminate student suicide

Last year, Sam Houston High School students grieved the loss of some of their own.

"Here at Sam Houston, we went through a stretch last year where we lost four students in a nine month period, and two of them were suicide, and two of them were car wrecks," said Sam Houston teacher Ken Brown. "Seeing the impact that had on the students, including my son who is a student here, that's where the interest came."

Brown decided several months ago to start a program to eliminate suicides at the school. The program is called "PILOT." It stands for Peer Initiative Leaders of Tomorrow. Nineteen students have been selected as peer support leaders to give students struggling someone their own age to talk with.

"My cousin committed suicide, and it was emotional," said Brenna Gaspard. "Our peers can understand our though process and how we take things."

Many students say they found the most comfort in people their own age. The leaders will be trained this summer on listening skills and how to talk about bullying, depression, grief, and suicide.

"The goal of PILOT, the ultimate goal, is to reduce the number of suicides at our school to zero, and we're going to try to do that by attacking the root causes of suicide: depression, grief, stresses, anxiety," said Brown.

Senior Isaiah Manuel was selected as a peer support leader.

"After hearing what happened last year and the years before, I kind of felt that I could change the landscape of Sam Houston High School and make it a better place for everyone to fit in and get a chance to express their opinions," said Manuel.

"One of the kids that committed suicide was actually one of my friends, and I felt that, you know, being in the place of Sam Houston where everybody is a family here that I could somehow deal with this with somebody else and just help other people in need who needed to grieve their loss," said Manuel.

Brown says this isn't a substitute for students needing professional help, just a step in the right direction.

"What were hoping is that when the students come in and talk to other students, once they start talking, if they need professional help we'll guide them there," said Brown.

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