By Geena Martinez
MIDLAND - The Midland school district is seeing an increase in the number of students dealing with thoughts of suicide and depression. About a third of those are elementary school students.
It's a problem school officials have tackled ever since a string of student suicides last year.
Now there's a new mental health bill aimed at school districts to fight this problem that's making its way through the state legislature.
Senate Bill 1178 would require school districts in Texas to mandate mental health training for teachers and administrators so they can identify the warning signs.
MISD already does a lot of what the bill is proposing and we're told that could explain the rise in outcries. They've just added Crisis Counselor Jennifer Mason to their team to help kids in distress.
It's a necessary move for the district.
Since the start of this school year, there have been 131 student outcries for help.
"88 of those were in the secondary campuses, so junior high and high schools," Mason said. "43 of those are on elementary campuses. Kids are in stress and they don't know how to deal with it right now."
The numbers might come as a shock to some people but school officials are crediting the "Signs of Suicide" curriculum that was introduced to students this school year.
"We're having a lot of kids who before would've just kept the secret of their friend but now they know how serious it is when their friend texts "Oh I just wanna die," Mason said. "So they're going to the adults and telling them and they're coming through us."
MISD faculty and administrators were also trained before the school year on how to spot the warning signs of possible mental health issues in students.
Now Greenville, Texas lawmaker Bob Deuell wants every Texas district to follow suit.
Senate Bill 1178 would require all public school educators to be trained in identifying mental health and suicide risks.
Districts would have to keep a record of the training, notify parents of an at risk child and give them counseling options to consider.
Cheryl Harrah, a counselor with Samaritan Counseling Center, thinks the bill is a great idea.
"Our teachers are the front line, they see the children on a daily basis. They're gonna be the first to be able to spot some of these things," Harrah said. "If we can get the help started when they're a teenager, we can save a whole lot of trauma in their early years."
Mason agrees but the limited resources in the Basin is causing a problem.
"We don't have an adolescent or child unit here," Mason said. "The closest is Abilene and San Angelo. We'll call and they don't have beds open."
It's a problem Mason hopes legislators will consider.
"The lawmakers need to also be looking at how to provide the resources to match with it," Mason said.
School counselors are on every campus but the Crisis Counseling program is not on elementary campuses.