Zero Suicides: KHSD schools work to save young lives

Jaidyn Estrada cuddles with her family. (Courtesy Leah Estrada)

As Eyewitness News continues our weeklong Zero Suicides campaign coverage, we are looking into how different sectors of the community are working to prevent suicide.

One place you'll see a lot of effort is at Kern High School District schools.

Each school has counselors devoted to suicide awareness. These professionals train staff and students to notice warning signs and teach them to say something when they see those signs.

Teen suicide is tough for parents to understand. With so much life left to live, their children kill themselves before their life even truly begins.

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For example, Jaidyn Estrada was a normal 12-year-old girl. She was an athlete and an artist. She loved her family. About a year ago, Jaidyn died by suicide.

The loss nearly destroyed her mother, Leah.

"The person that I was before Jaidyn passed away died that day," said her mother. "Like, I was completely shattered."

Jaidyn is one of many teenagers who died by her own hand. Teen suicide is a growing problem in our community.

Gina Alfaro, the director of guidance at North High School, said just in her school suicidal thoughts are extremely common.

"I would say, I mean, we as counselors, we hear about it a few times a week," Alfaro said.

Don't believe it?

Last year in Kern County, one-third of teen deaths were suicides.

Nationwide, the problem is just as prevalent, with one in six American teenagers having considered suicide.

The problem is getting teens to break through the stigma and understand they need help.

But getting teens, or anyone for that matter, to ask for help is tough. So, at North High they made Stars Speak Up, a way for students, staff or parents to anonymously call or email to make sure anyone gets the help they need.

While it's too late for programs like Stars Speak Up to save Jaidyn, her mother is proud local schools are making efforts to bring suicide awareness to their campuses.

"Huge. It's a huge relief, because I still have children in that district, and I don't want any other parents to have to go through this," Jaidyn's mother said.

The hope is through suicide awareness and Stars Speak Up, more teenagers can be connected to the resources and the help they need, ultimately saving young lives through nothing more than a little human kindness and an anonymous phone call.

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