Shadow Mountain High student pushes for suicide prevention

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Brittanee Hustad led a group from the Arizona Department of Education on a tour of Shadow Mountain High School on Tuesday. She is a junior this year, an honor student and often spends lunches helping put music away in the choir room. But like many teenagers, she has been through dark times.

“I was bullied a lot from sixth grade up to eighth grade year,” Hustad said. “I didn't tell anybody what was going on. I didn't want to talk to my family. I completely shut them out.”

Hustad says she is close to her parents and the lines of communication were there, but they couldn't differentiate between normal teen emotions and depression.
 
“I had took a knife to school and had tried,” she admitted. “Ever since, I've been getting help. It's helped a lot. And then my friend committed suicide and it went back downhill.”
 
But Hustad and her family focused on her recovery, and redirected the depression and anger into her Girl Scout Gold Award project. That's what led her to meet with State Superintendent John Huppenthal.  They talked about a plan to get teachers more training.
 
“At first, I didn't know what to do with myself, and then my mom came up with this great idea to make this my Gold Award,” she explained. “At first, I really didn’t want to because I didn't want to think about him. I didn't want to think about my attempt. I didn't want anything to do with it. And then as I started looking up the research, it became apparent that this needs to be brought up.”
 
Hustad calls her project "Stifle the Silence." She would like Arizona to have a Suicide Awareness Day in September, as many other states do. She would also like teachers, the people on the front lines with teenagers, to receive credit for suicide prevention training.
 
“Because it's another older figure,” she said. “It's another adult figure that helps, not just your family.”
 
Hustad believes more awareness can keep teenagers feel more connected, and help them understand the hurt they might cause and the experiences they will miss if they commit suicide.
 
“Doing this interview, it’s beyond amazing and I wouldn't be able to do it if I had done what I did," she said.
 
Hustad hopes suicide prevention training can be added to a House bill in the upcoming legislative session. She has plans for a festival of hope next fall at "The Rock."