Arizona high schools add suicide prevention numbers to ID badges

The message is simple: “You’re not alone.”

It started as a way to reach despondent teenagers at a single Phoenix-area high school two years ago, but has since spread across four different metro Phoenix school districts and to a handful of charter schools.

One example of Teen Lifeline ID badge schools are using to prevent teen suicide.

Tens of thousands of teenagers in the Valley of the Sun headed back to class this week, and one side of their school ID badges now display the number to Teen Lifeline crisis services.

The message says simply: “Feel like giving up? Please don’t.” (602) 248-8336 (TEEN.)

High-profile suicide sparks effort

The effort to give students easier access to resources began in earnest after a student at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, Ariz., shot himself on campus in 2015.

Participating school districts include: Paradise Valley Unified, Tolleson Union High School District, Phoenix Union High School District, and Tempe Union High School District.

Some charter high schools are also giving their students the number, Teen Lifeline crisis services associate Fernanda Barragan said.

Some districts are printing badges with the information; others are affixing stickers with the hotline number on one side.

Balloons and signs at a makeshift memorial outside Corona del Sol High School Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Tempe. An 18-year old student killed himself on campus Tuesday, May 13, 2015. David Kadlubowski/The Republic

“Since our students are required to visibly wear their student ID on a break-a-way lanyard, adding, ‘You’re Not Alone’ and the Teen Lifeline phone number to the back of every student ID was a simple and symbolic way to put these services in our students’ hands every day,” said Troy Bales, the former principal at Pinnacle High School.

Bales, who is now the assistant superintendent at the Paradise Valley Unified School District, started the resource idea on the Pinnacle campus two years ago.

Jennifer Liewer, spokeswoman for the Tempe Union High School District, said its a simple way to let students know that “there are people out there who want to help and want to talk to you.”

It’s important that teenagers don’t feel like they will be judged or ashamed to ask for help, she added.

Postive response

One example of Teen Lifeline ID badge schools are using to prevent teen suicide.

Teen Lifeline has operated in Maricopa County for 31 years, Barragan said.

She said she’s heard from students who say the hotline was just what they needed in a dark time.

The organization has resources for runaways, teens contemplating suicide, struggling with gender and sexuality crises, death, physical and sexual abuse.

She said no topic is off limit for any teen seeking help. They can even refer teens to therapists if needed.

“It’s been overwhelmingly positive, because the teens don’t realize they need it until they need it,” Liewer said.

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