September is Suicide Prevention Month, a time when mental health advocates, psychologists and organizations unite to bring awareness to this prominent issue.

Survivors and allies contribute to this cause by helping decrease the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health issues by sharing stories and experiences, and emphasizing the idea that mental health assistance is always available.

“Suicide is a very complicated act,” said Elizabeth Spector, Mental Health and Wellness Coordinator at Palo Alto High School.

“Sometimes, these disorders are not identified or noticed; in other cases, a person with a disorder will show obvious symptoms or signs. One thing is certain: there are treatments that can help”

Elizabeth Spector

Particularly, Paly is dedicated to addressing the dangers of mental health and aims to provide guidance and support for students experiencing hardships.

In the past, both Paly and Gunn High School communities have experienced several devastating losses from suicide over the past few years, and consider suicide awareness a major priority, according to Jerry Berkson, Assistant Principal of Operations at Paly.

“Reducing stigma, normalizing help-seeking, reducing barriers to treatment, improving visibility and improving access to support are just a few goals of the Wellness Center and Paly community as a whole,” Spector said.

Paly is currently taking multiple steps to help combat the prevalence of mental health disorders. This month, the Wellness Center, a valuable resource that aims to connect students with the appropriate support, is partnering with Sources of Strength (SOS) and Associated Student Body (ASB) to host events intended to improve mental health and increase a sense of community at Paly.

Events include SOS Gratitude Cards, SOS Trusted Adult Activity as well as the popular therapy dogs visits located near the quad every Wednesday.

A new advisory system will also introduce the use of Kognito, a health simulation company that “believes in the power of conversation to inspire and inform, impact how people think and act, evoke empathy and change lives,” according to the Kognito Website.

The website says that the program intends to “prepare youth to recognize signs of distress, reach out to a friend they are concerned about, and help identify a trusted adult for support.”

Students are also encouraged to seek help from a variety of sources available, including the Wellness Center, Guidance Office, Refer-a-Friend boxes and Paly Support, at palysupport@pausd.org, as well as the crisis text line (741741) and suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255).

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Khadija Abid

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