Former University of Tennessee head football coach Phillip Fulmer spoke to Knox County teachers about suicide prevention Tuesday as the schools prepare to implement a new suicide prevention program.
Fifty-four kids ages 10 to 19 died from suicide in Tennessee in 2015, according to the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.
Last school year, three Farragut High School students died by suicide.
“I can’t even imagine as a parent the level of hurt of a lost one, of a lost loved one,” Fulmer said.
Since the 1990s, Fulmer has been the spokesperson for the Jason Foundation, a national suicide prevention organization.
“This is an epidemic and needs to be dealt with as an epidemic,” Fulmer said. “If we can get between that, and intervene as counselors, as students, then we’ve perhaps saved a life.”
Knox County Schools is replacing its former suicide prevention training program with a new one from the Jason Foundation. Leaders say they were working on this new suicide prevention training before the suicides last year. They say the new curriculum is “more updated” and “student oriented” and focuses on looking for signs that a student may be in trouble.
“Specifically we are beginning with prevention is key, which is going to let teachers know about signs and symptoms,” said KCS Executive Director of Student Support Services Melissa Massie.
Warning signs from the Suicide Prevent Network: Previous attempts, verbal threats, behavior or appearance changes and isolation
Suicide Prevention Resources
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Crisis Text Line: Text TN to 741741 if you're struggling with thoughts of suicide.
Additionally, the peer recovery call center (Create hyperlink to: www.tn.gov/behavioral-health/article/peer-recovery-call-centeris) available in East Tennessee, where those who answer the hotline are have first-hand experience in the area.
"They know exactly what a caller is going through because they've gone through it themselves," said Ben Harrington, CEO of the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee.
The center can be reached at 1-865-584-9125 between 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.