Jefferson County Public Schools leaders on Tuesday hosted a Facebook Live to address concerns over suicides at district schools.

The district said there have been 10 suicides by students in two years — including one last week at a middle school.

During the Facebook Live, Superintendent Dr. Jason E. Glass said there were about 120 suicides in Jefferson County last year. He pointed to the issue as something the community needs to pay attention to.

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Suicides by the numbers

Below are some numbers provided by the district that illustrate the prevalence of suicide in JeffCo schools:

  • So far this year:
    • 8th grade - 2
    • 11th grade - 1
    • 12th grade - 1
  • Last year:
    • 6th grade - 1
    • 8th grade - 1
    • 10th grade - 1
    • 11th grade - 3

During the Facebook Live chat, district leaders said it's not bullying that prompts most suicidal thoughts. 

"No actually, the top one that students are reporting in terms of activating [the] event before they're experiencing suicidal thoughts are family problems," said Michelle Gonzales, district special counselor.

That district response sparked backlash online, Robert Willis wrote in the comments: "So your answer is that it is family problems that are the issue, not bullying. Perfect out for the way the district deals with the abuse of some of its students."

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Suicide: A statewide problem

Chris Weiss with The Second Wind, a suicide prevention organization, said conversations about mental health need to be happening no matter how hard they are.

"You shouldn't be afraid to ask them point blank, 'Have you thought about hurting yourself? Have you thought about dying by suicide?'" he said.

He said he's seen an increase in calls about suicide this year.

"In the past three school years, our referrals have gone from 276 referrals to 600 to 762,"Weiss said.

So has Safe2Tell. From Aug. 1, 2018 through July 31, 2019, Safe2Tell received a total of 22,332 tips. The total number of actionable tips received — excluding test tips, duplicate reports, pranks and hang-ups — was 19,861. 

That's is a 28% increase in the number of tips received compared to the 2017-2018 school year.

Tips included 3,668 reports on suicide, 2,164 on drugs and 1,871 on bullying.

"Do not be afraid to ask somebody if they're doing okay, because you never know when that can potentially save a life," Weiss said.

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