AHWATUKEE (3TV/CBS 5) - Tempe Union High School District (TUHSD) is opening up the conversation about suicide prevention district-wide, making it the first in the state to provide this type of training for all staff members. 

"We realize it was something we have to make time for and it's a scary topic and some people are comfortable talking about it, some people aren't, but we knew we needed to make it a priority for everybody in the district," Jennifer Liewer, a spokeswoman for TUHSD, said. 

TUHSD is home to seven high schools and 14,000 teenagers. 

"Most of our teachers don't have a mental health background, they haven't been trained, and so they don't want to do something that's going to make it worse and the only thing that can make it worse is not talking about it," Liewer said. 

Meredith Morrissey has been a teacher for 14 years and said she's noticed the conversation about suicide prevention change for the better. 

"When I first started teaching, mental health wasn't on the forefront of education. I think mental health and an education were separate and now I feel like they have fused together," Morrissey explained.

"Now in school, an education is not just about content--for sure there are definite standards that they need to know -- but it's more of the whole chapter of the child education experience." 

Tempe Union held a training seminar with Teen Lifeline in September. 

"There are obvious ones of withdrawn behavior but then other ones like an improvement of grades, a drastic improvement of involvement in a club and just something out of the norm of the student's life," Morrissey explained. "What I took from it is when a student breaks pattern, then it's cause for concern." 

Morrissey is also teaming up with the Health and Wellness coach at Mountain Pointe High School to create a "Mindfullness Center." 

"We'll have waterfalls going, bamboo. We have an outdoor space too, lots of greenery," Morrissey said. "We envision it to be a place students will go when they need a mental break or they need to interact with peers or speak with a guidance counselor or enter into a group session." 

Morrissey said Teen Lifeline plans to come out again in a few months to train students to also notice the warning signs and triggers in someone who is struggling with mental health. 

 

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