By Geena Martinez
MIDLAND - Sunday marked the beginning of National Suicide Prevention Week but the Midland School District is taking that a step further.
The district is making sure suicide awareness is a vital part of the school year.
Last year, four teens took their own lives, all within a short time frame. This year, the Midland School District is making changes to keep those tragedies from playing out again.
"The main goal of our district is to be able to identify," Crisis Counselor,Heather Mason said. "Everything is about identifying warning signs of psychological pain, physiological distress."
Mason is settling into to her new job as the M.I.S.D. crisis counselor. The position was created after the suicide problem came to light.
She'll focus on counseling students and getting them help. Mason will also be making campus visits to talk about suicide.
"You know there's a stigma with mental illness and so that stigma with suicide it goes hand in hand," Mason said. "Getting the awareness out there kinda lowers that stigma and that taboo sense."
And it doesn't stop there. The prevention and awareness will be in the classroom come Spring semester.
For the time ever, junior high and high school students will learn from a new type of curriculum in health classes called "Signs of Suicide" or S.O.S.
"They're gonna be learning about how to self identify mental illness and also identify that in a friend and then be able to approach a friend and then seek help," Mason said.
Looking for signs of depression and suicide isn't just for the students. Teachers are getting in on that learning experience too.
M.I.S.D. faculty and staff are taking online training to spot the first signs of a problem.
"It's a suicide module that they actually go through, they learn about suicide, they learn about ways they can intervene," Midland High School Principal, Jeff Horner, said.
It even puts the teachers through possible scenarios with students.
Horner says the interactive course is very helpful.
"The teacher has to decide how to respond," he said. "It gives them an idea of what might be said to a teacher and the best way to react."
The district hopes this ongoing effort makes a lasting impression.