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'You are not alone': Arizona athletes raising awareness for suicide prevention

Athletes from 17 different high schools filmed PSA's to help deliver the message to their peers struggling with mental health that there is hope and help.

ARIZONA, USA — Teen Lifeline, a suicide prevention resource, reports a 50% increase in calls to their hotline since the beginning of 2020. 

Students struggling with mental health is something high school athletes are seeing on their own campuses, so they're working to spread the message to their peers that there is hope and help. 

Trading Friday night lights for studio lights 

Being under the spotlight isn't new for Aiden Herring. Usually, he's under the Friday night lights at Perry High School. 

"Being a teen now is hard and different," Herring said. 

But the lights Friday in Phoenix came from studio lights. 

"I'm thankful not many close friends I have now are depressed at all, everything's good, but I know there are kids out there that deal with it," Herring said. 

Herring is one of nearly 20 high school athletes sharing a message of hope in the form of PSAs. 

"Recently, at my school, we had someone passed away from suicide. So it kind of really touched my heart," Kayla Smith, a senior and cheerleader at Mountain View High School. "I thought it was kind of cool that I could give back to my school since we just had that tragic loss." 

Help and hope

The PSA's are being produced with The Grand Canyon State Gridiron Club and Teen Lifeline. 

The videos will be put on social media and school communications channels in September for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. 

"What helps us all is to see our peers giving us that messaging," Teen Lifeline Clinical Director Nikki Kontz said. "And seeing that, for our peers, they're struggling or dealing with some of the same things." 

The PSAs have the athletes speak into the camera, reassuring the viewer on the other end that everyone struggles, and if someone is struggling with thoughts of suicide, there's hope. 

"These are some of our high schools and schools' biggest leaders, who people look up to them. And they can see them saying it's okay, come forward," Kontz said. 

Kontz said since the beginning of 2020, calls and texts into Teen Lifeline's hotline have grown 50%.

The hotline is staffed 24/7 and has peer counselors from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. every day. 

"There is hope. There is hope. It is all about bringing our community back to connection," Kontz said. 

It ends with the athletes saying, “You are not alone,"

Hitting home

These athletes talk about how they've seen their peers go through this, motivating them to come and give of their time to help someone else. 

"I have friends that struggle with this," Deshawn Warner, junior at Desert Edge High School, said. "It really helps. It really feels good to do this."

Warner is usually also playing on the football field on Fridays but hopes that a few minutes he and his fellow players take today can help someone else. 

"To think that somebody might be having a bad day, and then they see my video or my other opponents that are here's video, it's crazy, because they got to have a bad day, and then it'd be flipped after the video, or it can possibly save their lives," Warner said. 

Believing the message of hope goes beyond the field or the uniforms they wear. 

"It feels like we're all on one team right now. It's going to stay that way until we get on the Friday night lights," Warner said. 

If you or someone who know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, there is hope and help.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is now active; simply call 988. 

Other resources available include:

  • Teen Lifeline: 602-248-8336. Texting to the line is available from noon to 9 p.m. on weekdays or from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends. The hotline is also open for calls daily.
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
  • Community Referrals: 211Arizona.org
  • Statewide Resources: https://www.azspc.org/resources.html
  • Crisis Teams: 480-784-1500
  • Maricopa County Crisis Hotline: 602-222-9444
  • Free Zoom Community Meetings on mental health in youth can also be found here

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