Deputies respond to teens texting suicide threats

A student walks by hundreds of lanterns placed in the Honor Grove at College of the Canyons for the "Shine a Light" for suicide prevention and awareness on Tuesday, May 9, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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On Wednesday, a Saugus High School student sent a text to friends that he was going to kill himself.

On Tuesday, a Valencia High School student sent a text to friends that she was going to kill herself by jumping off a bridge.

Both students, fortunately, were located promptly before any harm was done, largely thanks to texts sent by concerned friends of both students to sheriff’s deputies who responded immediately.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and already – not even half way through the month – deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station remain busy responding to the threat of suicides, attempted suicides and suicides carried out.

Last week, on Sept. 6, a 20-year-old Panarama City man took an Uber ride to the Oak Tree Gun Club, bought some ammunition, rented a shotgun and shot himself.

Whether it’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, or any other month, deputies and counselors are taking suicide seriously.

“Yes, both of those incidents occurred,” Deputy Christopher Craft said, referring to the Saugus and Valencia high school suicide threats.

“This issue is extremely important,” he said.

“We take these incidents seriously and pull in as many resources that we need, so we can locate missing people who are contemplating suicide and get them the appropriate help that they need,” Craft said.

Students – whether they at high school or college – are under “way too much stress  – at home, at school, from parents and significant others,” said Priscilla Benites who helps students in need at the College of the Canyons’ Health and Wellness Center.

“At high school, if something happens with bullying, it’s suddenly widespread,” Benites said Thursday, reflecting the power of social media. “The bullying is not kept between the bully and the victim, now it’s put out there for everyone to see.

“I’ve seen young people die because of the advent of social media,” she said.

Benites, however, has one more text each troubled young person should log into their cell phones – a newly created crisis text line.

The text is simply use of the word “courage.” Anyone wanting help can text the word ‘Courage” to 741741 and get immediate help in a reply text.

For parents, Benites has a piece of advice for them.

“Parents must keep a watchful eye on their kids’ social media accounts,” she said. “We have to make sure that they are interacting with who they say they’re interacting.

“Because not only do we have to worry about cyber-bullying but about pedophiles,” she said.

Students walk by hundreds of lanterns the Honor Grove at College of the Canyons for the “Shine a Light” for suicide prevention and awareness on May 9, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

On two days in May, more than one thousand colorful paper lanterns covered COC’s Honor Grove in homage to the 1,100 U.S. college students who lost their lives to suicide during the past year. The “Shine A Light” event acts as a visual representation the students who lost their lives to suicide during the past year.

Benites, who helped with the “Shine A Light” event, was aware of Wednesday’s search for the despondent Saugus teen.

“The advancement of technology saved his life,” she said of Wednesday’s Saugus teen. “He texted ‘goodbye’ to his friends, all the kids, letting them know.

“Those kids were able to send Sheriff’s deputies out looking for him,” she said.

The boy was found alone – but safe and alive – at Central Park.

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on Twitter @jamesarthurholt


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