By Jen Kastner
MIDLAND- Since the start of the year, the Midland Police Department has already made their way into more than 600 students' lives to talk about the threats and consequences of bullying. With four teen suicides since last fall, now, more than ever, the issue of bullying needs to be brought to light.
Officer Jimmy Young has seen first hand how far bullying can drive a child.
"We've had little girls that have written letters that they don't want to live any longer," he says. Officer Young says the problem is real and we need to face it head-on.
Every week, he and his fellow officers have been walking through the doors of Midland elementary schools to tell students what path this behavior will put them on.
"A lot of bullies end up in prison. It starts off little right now but then they just become bigger bullies," he said.
Right now, they're starting to work their way into junior highs. Soon, they hope, they'll be walking the halls of local high schools. They're not just going to public schools to talk to students. They're heading out to private schools like Midland Christian, too.
The Midland Independent School District has been battling a teen suicide epidemic since the fall. Four of their students have taken their own lives. It begs the question, is the suicide problem caused by bullies?
Ron Moss is in charge of Midland Independent School District's Counseling Services. He says it's not that simple. Both issues, suicide and bullying, need to be treated separately, but with equal attention.
"If we confuse that mental health and wellness issue with another issue like bullying then we diminish the importance of focusing on mental health wellness for our students," Moss said.
However, Midland Police say they've talked to kids who say there is a link.
"I had this fifth grade girl stand up in one of my classes and she was crying during the program and we brought her to the side and she said her friend committed suicide because she was bullied," Moss said.
That friend didn't live in Midland but it still raises concerns.
On Wednesday, MISD's Health Advisory Board talked about the need to put suicide prevention curriculum into their classrooms as soon as possible. Tracey Dees is with MISD's Health Services. She says, "It was very difficult in January and February to get appropriate referrals for kids and put lots of people in places they needed to be, especially in our freshmen and high school campuses, and so we became aware we needed some additional programming, not just the ability to send the kid to the counselor."
NewsWest 9 has been told that MISD's counselors are working tirelessly with students to tackle concerns of both bullying and suicide.
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